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Your guide to serious limb injuries or infections

Man testing a bionic arm

If you have suffered a serious injury to an arm or leg as a result of an accident, you expect the hospital to provide you with proper treatment to give you the best chance of recovery.  If you do not receive this and your condition gets worse, and you lose a limb or the function in a limb, you may have a claim for negligence against the hospital.  Losing a limb can also have a life-changing, psychological effect upon both you and your family.

In nearly all cases, the loss of a limb occurs because of:

  • Lack of blood supply to the affected limb
  • Failure or delay in properly monitoring any body tissue damage
  • Failure or delay in recognising severe infection.

Complex bone fractures and soft tissue injuries often cause permanent disability and require urgent specialist surgery. A delay in receiving treatment can lead to later complications.

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

You may believe that you or a loved one have not received the appropriate standard of care expected from your doctor or hospital. You may feel that you have been badly let down and have not been given a full explanation.

We recognise that there can be an emotional hurdle to overcome before deciding to seek legal advice.

We can help

Our dedicated team of specialist solicitors has many years of experience in successfully resolving different types of clinical negligence cases. Our team of both male and female lawyers understand that you expect to receive the closest attention, special understanding and expert guidance to help you succeed in making your case.

Our specialist knowledge of both legal and medical issues, together with a sensitive awareness of how everyone involved is affected, means 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 and ensure the financial needs of providing the necessary care, treatment and support are properly met. 

Facts and stats

Up to 20% of hospital infections each year are the result of a procedure (surgical site infections).

  • 5% of patients undergoing a surgical procedure develop a surgical site infection          (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - NICE)
  • Nearly half of all amputations are caused by nerve and circulatory problems that could have been prevented.
  • Two-thirds of all delays in lower limb amputations would have been avoided if surgery had been performed on a planned operating list.
  • Fewer than half of patients who needed leg amputation received good care because of a lack of communication between different disciplines and poor team working.          (National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death - NCEPOD, Nov 2014)

Serious limb injuries caused by surgical negligence

  • Poor surgical technique leading to failure of the operation
  • Damage to surrounding structures, tissues, and nerves
  • Anaesthetic complications.
  • A failure to properly monitor any body tissue damage either during or following surgery can lead to serious infection.

Serious limb infections

Limb infections caused by open wound injuries or post-surgery complications can be life-threatening. The failure to promptly diagnose or treat correctly often requires further surgery and can lead to limb amputation.

Lymphoedema - a chronic (long-term) condition caused by a problem with the lymphatic system, which fights infection and drains excess fluid from tissues. Condition can deteriorate unless promptly treated.

Symptoms:

  • Swelling in the body's tissues, usually in the arms or legs.
  • Heaviness, dull pain and difficulty in limb movement.

Gangrene – the death ofbody tissue, usually in the toes, feet, fingers and hands, caused by loss of blood supply.

Symptoms:

  • Redness, swelling
  • Sores or blisters
  • Loss of sensation or severe pain in the affected area.

Diabetic foot ulcer – an area of broken down skin, usually on the lower leg or feet, which has failed to heal. Caused by high blood sugar levels and nerve damage. Diabetics with reduced nerve functioning are less able to feel sensation from an injury, such as a cut or blister to their feet. Even a mild injury can develop into a foot ulcer.

Symptoms:

  • Blood or pus drainage from affected area
  • Noticeable lump 
  • Cracked, dry skin
  • Calluses, corns

Peripheral arterial disease – damage or narrowing of the arteries leading to poor circulation of the blood. The body's cells cannot receive the oxygen and nutrients they need from the bloodstream without an adequate blood flow. The affected tissue of the limb dies and infection can set in.

Symptoms

  • Painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles after activity
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in the lower leg or foot, compared to the other limb
  • Hair loss on legs / feet
  • Brittle, slow-growing toenails
  • Ulcers (open sores) on the feet and legs, which fail to heal
  • Changing skin colour, such as turning pale or blue
  • Shiny skin
  • Muscle deterioration

Amputation involving one or more limbs

Reasons why a decision is taken to amputate a limb:

To prevent the spread of infection: Serious injury and damage to limb tissue can lead to the rapid spread of infection. Amputation of the affected limb is often the only measure to prevent the spread of further damage to other parts of the body.

A loss of blood supply, known as Ischaemia: Assessment should be made by a specialist within 12 hours of hospital admission and no more than 14 hours from arrival.

Other causes for amputation may include:

  • Severe injury from an accident in a vehicle, workplace machinery or serious burn
  • Cancerous tumour in the bone or muscle of the limb
  • Serious infection that fails to heal despite use of antibiotics or other treatment
  • A growth or tumour of the nerve tissue, called a neuroma

Serious limb injury – do I have grounds for claiming negligence?

Negligence in treating a serious limb injury, which required an amputation, may be caused by:

  • A delay resulting in surgical complications and / or infection.
  • Infection leading to septicaemia ( blood disease)
  •  Loss of blood supply and the death of limb tissue.
  • The development of gangrene or mismanagement of diabetes.

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

  • 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 an equally qualified specialist in the field.
  • The lack of care led directly to the injury or harm which was a “reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the actions or omissions of the doctor or other person providing the treatment.

How Your Legal Friend can help you...

When an operation goes wrong or an injury is not properly diagnosed or treated, no amount of compensation will be able to reverse the suffering and distress caused. Vital care, support and specialist equipment will be needed to ensure the best quality of life can be obtained for the victim of an amputated limb.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you will want to find out why your surgeon or doctor failed you or a family member in their duty to provide the expected standard of diagnosis, treatment and care.

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, support, equipment and care needs are properly met.