Pressure ulcers following elective surgery leaves teen with ‘unsightly’ scarring

The mother of a teenager who suffered severe pressure ulcers following surgery when he was 11 years old has settled her medical negligence claim against the defendant hospital trust.

The situation

After elective surgery at the defendant hospital in 2015, Max gained pressure ulcers at the top of both his calves, which left him with unsightly scarring, causing him to develop a major depressive episode and PTSD.

Timeline of events

Early summer 2015

Following a decline in his lower limb function and walking gait further to previous surgery in 2010, Max – who was born with lumbar myelomeningocele, a defect of the backbone and spinal cord, and suffers with reduced sensation in both legs – was admitted to the defendant hospital for elective surgery.

A range of post-operative instructions were given, including that Max’s heels should be elevated at all times.

Two days after his surgery, Max was discharged from hospital with a planned review two weeks later. His family were advised to keep his feet raised above the knees.

Mid-summer 2015

Max attended an outpatient clinic, where he reported a smell emanating from the top of the plasters. Upon removal, he was found to have grade 3 ulcers – deep and painful wounds in the skin – to the top of both calves measuring 5-6cms each. A sore on his left leg was recorded to be grade 2, which can be identified as a shallow open blister.

As a result of the ulcers, post-operative physiotherapy was put on hold to allow for healing.

Late summer 2015

Max was re-admitted to the hospital for a tissue viability review due to the slow healing of the right-sided ulcer. He was discharged the same day, with an arrangement for the dressings to be changed in the community on alternate days.

Autumn 2015

The ulcers had largely heeled but Max was left with scars, which his mother was advised to massage with E45 cream for two months.

Bringing the claim

Max’s mother instructed us as her son had been left with persistent unsightly scarring to both his calves, which could have been avoided had the ulcers been detected earlier and advice given regarding measures to prevent pressure damage.

How Lime Solicitors helped Max’s case

Rhea Javed, our clinical negligence solicitor, and Neil Clayton, our clinical negligence partner, have assisted the family throughout their claim.

We served a letter of claim in February 2017 and shortly afterwards, the defendant hospital admitted breach of duty, accepting Max had experienced pain and suffering.

Experts – including an orthopaedic surgeon, plastic surgeon and psychiatrist – were identified to report on breach of duty, as well as causation, condition and prognosis. Specialists found that Max had developed a major depressive episode and PTSD as a consequence of the development of his pressure ulcers.

In addition, there was continued reporting of persistent walking difficulty, said to be due to the lack of physiotherapy following his surgery – giving rise to unpleasant mood swings, difficulties sleeping and social isolation.

We quantified the case and secured an out-of-court settlement in early 2022.

A note from Neil and Rhea

“Pressure ulcers can be extremely painful, yet the majority can be avoided with the appropriate risk assessments and preventative care interventions.

“In Max’s case, a formal assessment of risk would likely have prompted closer surveillance following discharge, which could have avoided full thickness ulceration. If this had happened, Max’s post-operative rehabilitation would not have been delayed by the pain from his ulcers.

“The failure of physiotherapy to take place as a consequence of Max’s ulcers meant he never recovered strength following his surgery, could no longer join his friends in physical activities such as football and cycling, had to wear foot splints by day and night on one leg, and had stopped attending school with a consequent impact upon his education and progression. Furthermore, the ulcers left Max with persistent, unsightly scarring to both calves, which he intensely dislikes and causes him to constantly cover his legs.

“We are delighted to have settled this case for Max and his family, particularly as he approaches his 18th birthday. While, sadly, nothing can heal his scarring, the settlement will go towards counselling to treat the psychiatric injuries obtained as a result of his avoidable suffering.”

Contact our medical negligence solicitors 

Our medical negligence solicitors have experience supporting people after they have developed pressure ulcers in hospital. If you would like to discuss making a claim, please call us on 0808 164 0808 or request a call back and we will call you.