Case study: missed foot fracture leads to permanent damage

£20,000 Compensation

Joanne, 47

JMW obtained £20,000 for a woman who was left with permanent damage to her foot after doctors failed to diagnose a fracture.

Joanne, 47, developed pain in her left foot over a period of two weeks, resulting in her GP sending her for an X-ray. Although the results came back as normal, with no fracture seen, the pain and swelling in the foot continued and Joanne was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon.

However, as the pain was getting worse and she was about to go on holiday, she felt she could not wait for the orthopaedic referral, leading her to present herself at A&E. She was examined and reassured that there was no fracture, although no further X-ray was taken.

Fracture found but not treated

Joanne had a number of sessions with a physiotherapist, but these made little difference to the pain and she returned to her GP four months after the initial consultation. She was then referred to a podiatrist who requested a further X-ray. This time a fracture was seen in one of the bones of her third toe. However, the podiatrist advised that it was too late to do anything about it and that it would heal on its own.

New fracture

Two years later, after a very busy day at work, Joanne noticed a new pain in her left foot and an X-ray showed an old healing fracture of the third toe and a new stress fracture of the second toe. She was seen at the fracture clinic and the foot was put in a slipper cast for two weeks. When the cast was removed the pain and swelling had reduced and the consultant (Mr W) discharged her, claiming that no fracture was evident on the X-ray.

Signed off work for surgical treatment

However, the pain continued and Joanne was eventually signed off sick from work. Eventually, she was seen by a second orthopaedic surgeon, who sent her for a CT scan. This showed that neither of the fractures had fully healed, meaning she would require an operation to fuse them and stabilise them with screws.

The operation was reasonably successful in that both fractures were stabilised - but there was some doubt about whether they would ever fully unite. Joanne’s health is now much improved, but she continues to take regular painkillers for the pain in her foot.

Claim for negligence

Due to the long-term damage she received Joanne launched a compensation claim, stating that the A&E department was negligent in not taking another X-ray when she attended with a six-week history of foot pain. It is well known that stress fractures are often not visible during the first two weeks of symptoms. If she had received an X-ray at the six-week stage, it is likely that the fracture would have been identified, resulting in her being put in a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks to facilitate a full recovery.

It was also claimed that the orthopaedic consultant, Mr W, was negligent two years later when he discharged Joanne claiming that both fractures had healed. With an appropriate standard of care she would have been referred to a foot and ankle specialist for further management.

Compensation

After seeking advice from JMW, Joanne eventually received £20,000 in compensation.

If you have suffered medical negligence yourself, contact JMW today to find out if you can make a claim. Call us on 0800 054 6512 or fill in our contact form.

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