Skip to main content

Contact us to arrange your
FREE initial consultation

Call me back Email us

Written on 13th February 2023 by Tara Pileggi-Byrne

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence claims specialists secured a £200,000 settlement for the widow of a man who died from a stroke after air was allowed to enter his central venous catheter (central line) during post-surgical hospital treatment.

The man had undergone multiple and extensive treatments for rectal cancer and was recovering from pelvic exenteration surgery (removal of organs from the pelvic cavity) when he developed a bowel obstruction. After a short period of conservative treatment, he was transferred to a specialist hospital for further abdominal surgery (laparotomy). Following the operation he was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) and began to recover so that within a few days he was ready to be discharged from the ITU to a ward.  

On the morning that he was due to leave ITU, nursing staff noted a deterioration in his condition. His oxygen saturation levels (oxygen carried by red blood cells to internal organs) had dropped to 83%. He had also developed left arm weakness and a facial droop. Over the next few hours he needed ventilation. His level of consciousness deteriorated and an urgent head CT scan was carried out, which revealed that he had suffered a stroke which may have been caused by air emboli (air bubbles blocking a blood vessel).  The central line, which had been placed on the day of his surgery, was changed and the previous line kept for review.

His family were told by his surgeon and ICU doctors that he had suffered a stroke as a result of an air embolism which should have been avoided.  His condition did not improve and his ventilation was discontinued. He died two days later. The hospital’s own investigation failed to identify the cause of the air embolism.

Attending the inquest and proving the cause of death

We represented the widow and her family at an inquest into her husband’s death. During the inquest, the Coroner observed that air should never be allowed to enter the central line, and recorded the cause of death as:

  • 1a. ischaemic stroke
  • 1b. gas embolism
  • 1c. central line use
  • 2. emergency laparotomy.

Claim leads to £200,000 compensation settlement 

We pursued a claim for the widow against the NHS trust responsible for the hospital care, on the basis that their negligence in allowing air into her husband’s central line had caused his air (gas) embolism, stroke and death. The NHS trust responded to the claim and admitted full liability (responsibility).

We entered into settlement negotiations and secured a £200,000 compensation settlement for our client. Sums for her husband’s pain and suffering in the days leading up to his death, funeral expenses, the statutory bereavement award, and her loss of dependency on his income and ‘services’ (such as gardening, cleaning and decorating) were included in the claim.

If you have suffered serious injury or bereavement as a result of medical negligence, or have been contacted by HSIB/HSSIB, MNSI or NHS Resolution after your hospital care, you can talk to one of our solicitors for advice about how to respond or make a claim for compensation by contacting us here.