Case Study: Failure to Explain Risks of Surgery Leads to Spinal Accessory Nerve Damage

Compensation: £135,000

Chris, 51 years old, Manchester

With JMW's help, a man has acquired a £135,000 payout following doctors failed to explain the risks of a surgical procedure which resulted in spinal accessory nerve damage.

Chris had a long history of maxillofacial problems dating back to childhood. When he was aged 18 he was involved in a parachute accident suffering a severe injury to his lower jaw. He developed Freys Syndrome as a complication of the surgery resulting in a gustatory sweating problem.

Chris continued to experience pain from the lower jaw and he was referred to a specialist hospital for treatment of his continuing problems with the left jaw. It was thought that the fibrous ankylosis which was the cause of the problem had to be released and that the prosthesis should be used.

After considerable delay, Chris was admitted to hospital for surgery and an articular prosthesis was fitted. Initially, the operation was thought to have been successful however Chris continued to experience pain noticeably over the lower end of the prosthesis on the left side. It was decided that a muscle flap taken from the sternomastoid to cover the lower end of the prosthesis would be the best way to address Chris's pain.

Chris underwent hospital surgery whereby the neck scar was excised and a sternomastoid flap was raised and rotated over the ramus of the mandible.

Postoperatively, Chris complained of severe pain in his left shoulder which was limiting his activities and interrupting his sleep. It was found that the spinal accessory nerve had been damaged presumably during the course of the operation.

The claim

JMW Solicitors alleged that Chris had not been properly warned of the potential complications of the operation. The fact that Chris had previously undergone surgery on his neck meant it would have been appropriate to specifically warn him of the risk of damaging the accessory nerve.

JMW Solicitors further alleged that it was inappropriate to treat his condition by the transfer of a muscle flap from the sternomastoid. In addition, it was alleged that it was negligent to fail to properly identify, protect and preserve the spinal accessory nerve thus leading to its damage intraoperatively.

The injuries sustained by Chris at the operation meant that he was unable to return to work. He had limited use of his shoulder and the joint tended to drag causing considerable pain.


The case was settled for £135,000 although no liability was admitted by the hospital.

Has you or a loved one suffered due to a failure to explain the risks of surgery?

If you or someone you know has suffered in a similar way, give us a call to discuss the situation and to see whether you could be entitled to compensation. Ring us today on 0800 054 6512, or complete our online enquiry form, and a member of our friendly team will get in touch with you.

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