Hospital’s Failure To Diagnose Aneurysm Leads To Death Of 66-Year-Old Man

Hospital’s Failure To Diagnose Aneurysm Leads To Death Of 66-Year-Old Man

Medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell have recovered a significant settlement for the family of a man who tragically died after a hospital’s failure to diagnose an aneurysm.

Background

Our client, Mr O, attended A&E at Maidstone Hospital on 11 June 2009 complaining of abdominal and testicular pain. He had developed lower abdominal pain the previous evening which had persisted and increased. He also felt pain in his right testicle but it wasn’t swollen.

He’d felt no pain on passing urine and had had no bowel symptoms, but he had noticed an increased urinary frequency during the previous three months. He felt nauseated but hadn’t vomited.

The senior house officer (SHO) noted that Mr O looked well and had stable observations. However, on abdominal examination, he found that he had an expansible mass in his upper abdomen which he diagnosed as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) but considered this an incidental finding. 

The SHO thought that Mr O might be suffering from prostatitis or epididymo-orchitis. He also thought that the AAA required follow-up by a vascular surgeon.

The SHO discussed the case with the urology registrar on call, though it isn’t clear whether he mentioned the AAA to him. The urology registrar advised that prostatitis was an unlikely diagnosis "as patient is so well clinically". He also said that a bladder scan should be done to rule out urinary retention and that (if it did) a urine specimen should be sent for culture and Mr O should be treated for urinary tract infection (UTI) with trimethoprim.

Discharge From A&E

Hospital staff discharged Mr O with advice to see his GP if his symptoms persisted after he had completed the course of antibiotics or to return to the A&E department if his symptoms worsened.

On the evening of the same day, Mr O collapsed at home and an ambulance was called.  The ambulance crew found him to be deeply comatose with absent pulse and breathing. They attempted resuscitation but were unsuccessful.  A coroner’s post mortem examination was subsequently carried out and the cause of death was given as rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Expert Evidence From A Vascular Surgeon

We obtained positive medico legal expert evidence from a vascular surgeon. This evidence concluded that the urology registrar made the improbable diagnosis of UTI without bothering to come and see the patient.

In addition, it was negligent of the casualty officer to assume that the AAA was an incidental finding and culpable of the urology registrar to ignore it if he’d been told about it. A vascular surgeon would in the circumstances have been under a duty to see Mr O promptly.

It is likely that Mr O would have been offered a conventional emergency aneurysm repair and that he would (on a balance of probabilities) have survived emergency repair of his ruptured aneurysm.

After contacting Irwin Mitchell, Mr O’s spouse and son-in-law accepted a settlement of £60,000.

Clinical negligence expert Kate Major represented them. She said: "This is a tragic case which should have never happened. With assistance of our investigations the family has been able to obtain answers as to what happened and can now move forward with their lives. Hopefully lessons will be learnt."

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