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Written on 8th July 2021 by

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyers have secured a £175,000 settlement for a young woman who was left with severe pain, scarring, physical and psychological injuries as a result of multiple errors in her chemotherapy treatment.

Hospital staff failed to follow guidelines for safe chemotherapy treatment

Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, our client was referred to a consultant oncologist at the defendant hospital. She was advised to have epirubicin chemotherapy to reduce the size and stage of her tumour before surgical treatment. Based on her own research, she told the consultant that she would prefer to have the treatment through a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) in her arm but was advised that her treatment would be safer via a port, which was then surgically implanted beneath the skin in her chest.

Her first chemotherapy treatment was carried out by a nurse who administered the epirubicin via a needle through an opaque dressing on the client’s chest. Our client told the nurse that she was feeling severe pain from the epirubicin, which eased when it was stopped. The nurse continued with the treatment, causing our our client further severe pain. A doctor was called who prescribed morphine for our client and told the nurse to continue the treatment. After a further very painful attempt, the nurse finally stopped the treatment.

Throughout this procedure, the hospital staff repeatedly failed to follow the hospital’s own guidelines for giving chemotherapy safely, avoiding and responding to the serious complication of extravasation. If they had done so, our client’s extravasation injury would have been avoided, or recognised and treated immediately and she would have avoided almost all of her injury.

Failure to recognise and treat extravasation injury

Instead of recognising that our client’s pain was caused by the leakage of toxic chemotherapy fluids into the tissues of her chest, and treating the injury, our client was referred for an ultrasound scan. This was a pointless and inappropriate investigation which could not confirm or exclude an extravasation injury. Our client was discharged without further treatment and no diagnosis of extravasation was made or noted in our client’s medical records.

Over the next few days our client developed a rash on her chest and had intense pain on movement. She couldn’t lie flat and had to sleep sitting up. Despite continued pain, skin symptoms and repeated hospital attendances, her extravasation injury remained undiagnosed.  She was given antibiotics and her chemotherapy treatment continued, until she was finally misdiagnosed as having cancerous infiltration of the skin. She was told to prepare herself for death.

When she was referred back to the original consultant who had referred her to the oncologists after her cancer diagnosis, the consultant immediately recognised her extravasation injury and took a biopsy which confirmed that the skin symptoms were not caused by cancerous skin infiltration. A CT scan revealed that her tumour had reduced in size. She underwent surgical mastectomy and axillary clearance, but the extravasation injury meant that reconstruction and radiotherapy had to be delayed. Her breast cancer recurred, and she had further surgery to clear the cancer, reconstruct the breast and carry out skin grafting.

Admission of liability, apology and settlement

The extravasation injury affects every aspect of our client’s daily life, including her mobility and ability to look after herself. She has constant, severe pain, fatigue, disturbed sleep and symptoms caused by psychological trauma. She has had multiple operations, and has severe scarring, restricted, painful movement and weakness of her shoulder and arm. She is unable to return to full time work. She will remain severely disabled by the injury for the rest of her (very limited) expected life.

We pursued our client’s claim and secured an admission of liability from the defendant hospital, together with an apology and an interim payment to help our client pay for ongoing treatment. The case concluded with a negotiated settlement of £175,000.

 If you have suffered severe injury or disability as a result of medical negligence, contact us here to talk to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially to find out more about making a claim.