Delayed diagnosis and treatment of septic arthritis in knee joint

Anita Marriott, specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitor, settled a claim relating to delayed diagnosis and treatment of septic arthritis in a knee joint.

Septic arthritis is inflammation of a joint caused by a bacterial infection and is considered to be a medical emergency. Septic arthritis typically causes severe pain, swelling, redness and heat in affected joints and the symptoms typically develop quickly over a few hours or days. The sooner the infection is picked up and treated, the better the outlook. If the condition is left untreated, it can become life threatening and can lead to permanent joint damage.

Davies and Partners were instructed by Mr W following the delayed diagnosis and treatment of septic arthritis in his left knee whilst under the care of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr W sustained an injury to his left knee which was initially appropriately investigated and treated by MRI scan, arthroscopy and physiotherapy and considered that the progress of his knee was satisfactory until the early hours on 2nd March when he awoke with severe pain in his left knee and was admitted to Southend University Hospital. It was erroneously considered that septic arthritis was unlikely in view of the short history of pain and sudden onset. It was not until 5th March, when Mr W underwent an arthroscopic washout of the left knee and examination of the knee revealed arthritic changes in the joint that intravenous antibiotics were commenced. It was alleged on behalf of Mr W that the decision not to undertake a surgical washout and to commence treatment with intravenous antibiotics on 2nd March, fell below an acceptable standard of care.

As a result of the negligent delay in diagnosis and treatment of septic arthritis, Mr W suffered from severe infection which proved difficult to eradicate and which caused him to suffer from significant additional pain and disability which included a month’s stay in hospital, two further surgeries to washout his knee; continuing persistent pain and restricted movement. Mr W also developed a fixed flexion deformity which was treated with botox and was left with residual problems in his left knee due to an exacerbation and acceleration of osteoarthritis. It was considered that the need for knee replacement surgery would be brought forward by 8 years consequent upon the delayed treatment.

Proceedings were issued and a stay agreed between the parties, following the filing of the Defence, acknowledging the admissions already made in the Letter of Response, to facilitate settlement negotiations. Following a period of negotiation settlement was agreed and approved by the Court in the global sum of £90,000.

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