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Your guide to orthopaedic negligence

Man holding back in pain

Orthopaedics is the medical term used in the treatment and surgery of a disorder, condition or injury that affects your:

  • Bones and joints
  • Ligaments, tendons and muscles
  • Related nerves

A GP or doctor should promptly refer you to an orthopaedic/trauma consultant for the treatment of:

  • An injury, such as a bone fracture.
  • An injury trauma, such as Compartment Syndrome - where the nerves and blood vessels become compressed following a severe injury.
  • A long-term condition that's developed over many years, such as Osteoarthritis which relates to the gradual loss of cartilage in the joints.

Other conditions that require the attention of a orthopaedic specialist will also include:

A delay in treatment can cause an injury or condition to deteriorate and lead to further complications. In some cases, a patient can be left suffering with a severe disability caused by permanent nerve injury and loss of muscle function.

Your GP, doctor, specialist or other clinician has a duty of care to promptly and correctly diagnose and treat orthopaedic injuries or conditions.

Starting a claim for clinical negligence is not always an easy decision

You may have grounds to believe that you or a loved one have not received the appropriate standard of care expected from your doctor or hospital if there was:

  • A failure to identify a condition
  • A misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Surgical injury

Your Legal Friend has many years of experience in successfully resolving different types of clinical negligence cases. We offer a specialist knowledge of both legal and medical issues, together with a sensitive understanding of how everyone involved is affected.

We can help you:

  • Find out the reason why something went wrong with a diagnosis, treatment or procedure.
  • Obtain financial compensation for the injury or harm caused, which may need long term treatment, care and support.

Orthopaedic facts and stats

  • 144,047 orthopaedic procedures completed by the NHS in 2014    
  • Knee procedures - 69,662 (48.3%)
  • Hip procedures - 68,529 (47.5%)
  • Shoulder procedures - 4,781 (0.3%)
  • Elbow procedures - 567
  • Ankle procedures - 508          (National Joint Registry, 2015)
  • 15% of all negligence claims received by the NHS, 2013-14          (Annual Review, NHS Litigation Authority,2013/14)
  • 9,865 orthopaedic litigation claims between 1995 and 2010.          (Freedom of Information Act 2013, The National Health Service Litigation Authority - NHSLA) 

Initial assessment

A doctor or consultant at a hospital A&E department should carry out a prompt, initial assessment to determine the type and severity of an injury or condition affecting a bone, joint, muscle or ligament. Key tests should be undertaken such as X-rays and blood  tests.

What are the common orthopaedic procedures?

  • Repairing fractured bones
  • Hip replacement
  • Knee replacement
  • Soft tissue repair -  damaged muscles, torn tendons or ligaments

Other types of surgery:

    • ACL Reconstruction – repair of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament - the major stabilising ligament at the front of the knee, which can rupture if the knee is twisted or injured.
    • Arthroscopy - ‘keyhole’ surgery where tiny cameras and medical instruments are inserted into a joint to diagnose and repair damaged joint tissue, such as cartilage damage.
    • Arthroplasty – surgery used to replace or resurface joints affected by arthritis.

Surgery to correct a bone deformity

- Fusion surgery (where bones are welded together to heal into a single, solid bone)

- Osteotomy (correcting a misaligned bone to help prevent degeneration of an adjacent joint) 

If left untreated, deformities of the spine or limbs can restrict movement and function, and cause long-term impairment. 

After surgery

A specialist should recommend exercises or physiotherapy to restore movement, strength and functionality.

Orthopaedic negligence – how does it happen?

A patient may be caused preventable harm, suffering or loss as a result of:

  • A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, sometimes caused by misreading X-rays
  • Failure to recognise or treat fractures, particularly in A&E
  • A delay in diagnosis of a fracture
  • Problems appearing during a  hip, knee or elbow replacement
  • Poor surgical technique
  • Wrong site surgery
  • Incorrect repair of a fracture, requiring further surgery
  • Damage to blood circulation
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection following an operation
  • Equipment malfunction
  • Incorrect size of prosthesis 

Orthopaedic negligence - do I have a claim?

You may have  grounds to make a claim for an orthopaedic injury , if you are able to show:

  • A missed or negligent diagnosis - below a standard of appropriate care that would be provided by another doctor in the same field with the same qualified training and experience.
  • Incorrect surgery or treatment – where a repair or replacement is not performed correctly.
  • Errors in joint reconstruction – you may not have had the appropriate type of treatment. Severity and location can also affect the way treatment is applied.

For a claim of negligence to be successful, you have to show:

  • The doctor, surgeon or hospital was in breach of the duty of care you are owed as their patient.
  • The care received fell below the standard that could “reasonably be expected” from a  specialist in that area of medicine.
  • The lack of care directly led to the injury/ harm which was a “reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the actions or omissions of the doctor or person providing the treatment.

How Your Legal Friend can help you

The consequences of a late diagnosis or failure to correctly treat an orthopaedic injury or condition can leave a patient with severe long term physical problems.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we ensure your case is properly investigated and your voice heard in order to bring the hospital, health trust or medical practitioner to account for the harm and suffering they have caused, and to prevent others from suffering in a similar way.

Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers and receive appropriate compensation so that their future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.