The patient was admitted to hospital with a very high temperature. He had been unwell on and off for the preceding 3 months.
A Group B streptococcus was isolated from blood cultures and he began penicillin. A transthoracic echocardiogram noted an aortic vegetation leading to a diagnosis of bacterial endocarditis. Following a discussion between the Cardiologists and Microbiologists Gentamicin was commenced in conjunction with other antibiotics.
The patient was transferred to his local heart centre where he underwent surgery for replacement of his aortic valve some 15 days later. He continued to receive Gentamicin. Around a month after the first prescription of Gentamicin the patient began to suffer with episodes of dizziness following which Gentamicin was stopped.
The patient continued to suffer with debilitating symptoms. He suffered with severe dizziness, severe nausea, impaired balance, reduced mobility and concentration, symptoms that affected all aspects of his daily living. His ability to self balance was severely reduced with a constant feeling of instability. This led to him spending most of his time sitting on the floor with his back leaning on the sofa. As his balance was affected, he required supervision and assistance when mobilising both within the house and outside.
The patient was diagnosed as suffering from bilateral peripheral vestibular hypofunction arising from damage caused to the structure of his inner ear by Gentamicin due to its ototoxic nature.
The allegation was that the doses of Gentamicin that the patient had were too high and that Gentamicin was prescribed for too long a period. This has resulted in the patient receiving a significantly higher overall dose of Gentamicin and this caused his vestibular dysfunction. If Gentamicin had been given at the appropriate dose for a shorter period of time, then the vestibular dysfunction would have been avoided.
Liability was never admitted in relation to the claim but it settled with a substantial 7 figure payment to the Claimant, a figure that included a substantial element to cover his future care and accommodation needs.