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Misdiagnosed Fractures in Accident & Emergency

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    As A&E Departments across the Country prepare for increased pressure in the impending cold weather can patients be confident in the care they receive when fractures are suffered?

    By Joachim Stanley

According to the latest statistics published by the Government, there were 17.6 million attendances recorded by Accident and Emergency providers in 2011-2012. With so much pressure on Accident and Emergency departments, can we be sure we are getting the best care the NHS can provide, particularly in times when departments are overworked during the winter?

It is acknowledged that NHS hospitals are under enormous amounts of pressure to reduce waiting times. However patients are still entitled to receive an acceptable standard of care.


When patients attend Accident and Emergency departments they generally expect to be waiting a considerable amount of time to be seen by a Doctor. Once they are seen by a Doctor they expect to be correctly examined, diagnosed and treated before being sent home. Part of the examination process is making sure that all necessary investigations are carried out.

When a patient suffers a significant impact injury to their body, a Doctor must determine whether part of their investigation will include an x-ray to see if a fracture to a bone has been sustained. If an x-ray is taken, that image should be interpreted accurately and then appropriate treatment provided, whether that entails using a plaster cast to set the bone in the correct position or whether surgical intervention is required.


The Clinical Negligence Team has many clients that have attended Accident and Emergency after suffering serious injuries and doctors have failed to diagnose and treat their injuries correctly which has led to injuries being much worse than they otherwise would have been.

One such case involves a client who fell down a set of ladders while working and he injured his right ankle. He was suffering with intense pain and his ankle was severely swollen. He attended A&E and was eventually seen by a doctor who performed a brief examination and diagnosed him with soft tissue damage without performing an x-ray. The doctor prescribed him with pain medication and sent him home. The pain in his ankle continued for a number of months and he eventually returned to the hospital. An x-ray was performed and he was diagnosed with a serious fracture which required urgent surgery. He underwent surgery but it was only partially successful due to the delay in appropriate treatment. He is still undergoing rehabilitation and he may never fully recover.

Our case was that if appropriate time and care had been taken to investigate our client’s injury when he first attended A&E, the fracture would have been diagnosed and treated correctly.  He would not have suffered any complications and would have carried on with his life as normal. The failure by the Accident and Emergency department in this case drastically changed our client’s life and we hope that further incidents like this can be avoided.


Over the following winter months Accident and Emergency departments all over the country will experience an influx of patients, and many will be attending due to injuries caused in part by cold weather, which often include fractures due, for example, to slipping on ice.  It is vital that fractures are promptly identified and patients are entitled to expect this as misdiagnosed fractures can cause serious injury to the patient with long-term effects.

If you are unlucky enough to injure yourself, be vigilant and make sure your injury is fully investigated. If you are concerned you’re your injury was not correctly diagnosed when you attended A&E, please contact the Clinical Negligence Team for advice and to ensure your concerns are investigated.

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  1. Pingback: The importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment of scaphoid fractures - Clinical Negligence Team

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