Failure by General Practitioner to diagnose infective endocarditis leading to a stroke

The patient presented at his General Practitioner on a number of occasions suffering with flu-like symptoms. Blood tests were taken but the General Practitioner did not respond to increases in the patient’s white blood cell (WBC) count and CRP results. The patient became increasingly unwell and suffered a stroke.

It transpired that the patient had been suffering with infective endocarditis that had led to vegetations on his heart valve. The vegetations on his heart valve had broken off resulting in the stroke which had left the patient with very considerable disabilities.

The patient should have been referred to hospital by his GP earlier whereupon intravenous antibiotics would have been given, the patient would have had heart valve surgery and the stroke would have been prevented.

The issues in relation to the claim were complex. On breach of duty the issue was whether the patient’s General Practitioner should have diagnosed or included in a differential diagnosis infective endocarditis in a patient who presented with a pyrexia of unknown origin and in respect of whom no diagnosis was made.

In relation to causation the issue was whether an earlier admission to hospital would have resulted in the diagnosis, appropriate antibiotic treatment and heart valve surgery that would have avoided his stroke.

The claim settled shortly before trial for a substantial six figure sum that included the costs of alternative accommodation and provided for the claimant’s future care needs.

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