A fracture is an injury to any bone of the body, where the structure of the bone has been broken. There are a lot of different types of fracture, and it is important that any fracture is diagnosed and treated in order to avoid complications which can arise when a fracture is left untreated.
The Clinical Negligence Team has dealt with many cases in which fractures and other conditions have gone undiagnosed, and can advise you as to whether your own circumstances may give rise to a claim.
A missed diagnosis of fracture is when a patient presents to a doctor, usually in an emergency department at a hospital, following an injury, and that doctor or radiologist fails to pick up the fact that you have fractured your bone. Some fractures are very difficult to detect, particularly a fracture to the scaphoid bone, which is a small bone in the hand. In addition, some fractures to the spine can also be difficult to detect, but if left untreated and managed, can have severe consequences.
There are of course a number of other types of missed fractures which can occur to any part of the body and your treating doctor and the radiologist will have a duty to carefully note the history of your accident and carefully review your x-rays to ensure that you are appropriately managed.
It is not always immediately apparent on taking an x-ray that you have fractured a bone, particularly if you have incurred a hairline fracture, or the fracture has been to a very small bone, rather than a large bone, for example in your leg. However, that does not always make it acceptable and it may be that the doctor should have asked you to come back in within 7 to 14 days for another x-ray or to check for any possible complications at the Fracture Clinic.
This is particularly important because delayed and missed diagnosis of fracture can cause the bone to degenerate or osteoarthritis to develop. If you have suffered a fracture to your spine which has gone undiagnosed, this could lead to nerve damage, or possible paralysis.
If you have suffered a significantly worse outcome as a result of a missed diagnosis, you should consider a claim in clinical negligence and consult an appropriately experienced solicitor.
The level of compensation you may receive will be dependent on the type of injury you have suffered and the consequences incurred as a result of the delay in diagnosis of your fracture. It may be that you will have had to take a long time off work which will give you a loss of earnings claim. There may also have been the need for extensive treatment by way of rehabilitation to bring you back to normal functioning level, and again this will increase the level of value of your claim.
There are two types of damages, general damages to compensate you for your pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, and then special damages, which are there to compensate you for direct financial losses now and in the future. Your solicitor will carefully advise you as to the likely value of your claim.
Simon Elliman, the Head of the Clinical Negligence Team, won £40,000 for a young man who fractured a bone in his wrist (the scaphoid bone) in a fall outside a nightclub. He went to the casualty department of his local hospital but the diagnosis was missed, meaning that he subsequently needed much more extensive surgery.
Simon Elliman, the Head of the Clinical Negligence Team, won compensation of £22,500 for a boy who suffered a fracture of his big toe while playing football at school. The hospital failed to diagnose the fracture initially and then failed to realise that an infection had set in. Eventually he required four operations and suffers permanent damage to his toe.
The Clinical Negligence Team recovered compensation of £9,000 for a woman who fell from a horse and broke her femur (thigh bone). She went to the casualty department of her local hospital immediately but the fracture was not diagnosed. Eventually the fracture was diagnosed but the delay meant the outcome was significantly worse than if an operation could have taken place within 24 hours of the fall.