Failure by GPs to investigate, diagnose and treat deep vein thrombosis (DVT) resulting in fatal pulmonary embolism

Anita Marriott, Associate – specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitor, settled a claim arising out of the failure to investigate and treat a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), resulting in a fatal pulmonary embolism.

The Deceased had flown back to the UK following a period overseas. Shortly after her return she became concerned about unilateral swelling to her left leg and attended on the first GP on three separate occasions over a period of 3 weeks who recorded that clinically there was no sign of a DVT and referred the deceased for an urgent abdominal ultrasound scan, despite the absence of any abdominal pathology, the presence of continued unilateral swelling and the progression of the swelling to the leg as well as the ankle.

Less than two weeks after the last attendance on the first GP, the Deceased attended on the second GP who recorded new symptoms of left ankle oedema with slight pain, but concluded, without any further investigations, that there was no DVT. Three days after this last consultation, the Deceased collapsed and was taken to hospital but resuscitation was unsuccessful and she died due to a pulmonary embolism arising from the DVT in the left lower limb.

It was the Claimant’s case that there had been a failure to investigate, diagnose and treat the DVT , in particular the failure to undertake an adequate examination, to consider the unilateral nature and progression of the Deceased’s condition and failure to carry out urgent imaging of the left leg vasculature which would have confirmed or excluded a DVT. Further that the second GP was also negligent in failing to exclude the DVT by referring for further investigation or treatment, until such time as imaging of the vasculature of the left leg was performed to confirm or refute the possibility of a DVT.

If the Deceased had been admitted to hospital following any of the first three GP consultations, anti-coagulation would have been adequate to prevent the fatal pulmonary embolism. Even if a duplex scan was performed after the final GP consultation and had showed a very extensive DVT that was unstable and propagating, a caval filter could have been inserted to prevent the fatal outcome.

Liability was denied on behalf of both the First and Second Defendants. Court proceedings were commenced and, following the exchange of medical evidence dealing with liability, the Defendants’ entered into settlement negotiations, without any admissions of liability. After a period of negotiation settlement was agreed and approved by the Court in the global sum of £77,500, this included the statutory bereavement allowance of £10,000 which was applicable at the time of the Deceased’s death.

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