Was the hospital to blame for the patient’s infection after surgery? Which case won?
Patient undergoes hernia repair following caesarean section
On 7 June 2010, a woman attended a hospital for the repair of an incisional hernia that had developed at the site of her caesarean section wound, following the birth of her third child at the end of 2009.
The patient was admitted for surgery by a senior surgeon, but underwent the hernia repair at the hands of a junior surgeon, with the senior surgeon present to assist in the surgery. The hernia was repaired and surgical mesh was placed over the hernia site.
Subsequent surgeries following initial procedure
Further surgery was undertaken on 15 June 2010 to drain a seroma (pocket of clear fluid) which had developed at the site of the surgery, wash the wound out and apply a VAC (vacuum assisted closure) dressing. Shortly afterwards, on 18 June 2010, the patient was discharged from the hospital.
On 27 June 2010, based on concerns of the community nurse, the patient returned to the hospital for further review. As a result, the patient underwent another wash out procedure and had a VAC dressing re-applied.
Patient returns to hospital on further occasions
The patient returned to the hospital again on 3 July 2010, complaining of abdominal pain, nausea and fevers, as well as swelling and bleeding around the wound site. She was admitted for review and given intravenous antibiotics before being discharged from the hospital on 5 July 2010.
On 15 July 2010, the patient presented as an outpatient to the hospital. It was noted that she had a leaking abdominal seroma, as well as a 6×6 centimetre area of necrotic flesh.
Immediate surgery after different hospital diagnoses surgical mesh infection
Not satisfied with the care provided by the hospital, the patient attended another hospital on 16 July 2010. She was diagnosed with overt surgical mesh infection and immediately underwent surgery to remove the infected mesh.
The patient continued to struggle with the infection for most of 2010.
The patient had follow-up surgeries in August 2010 to have necrotic tissue removed and in July 2011 to have plastic surgery to the surgical wound. The infection persisted until September 2011.
Consequences of infection for patient lead to legal action
The patient claimed that as a result of the infection, she continued to suffer from pain, mechanical back pain, discomfort and restriction of movement at the surgical site, as well as psychological injuries. Consequently, she was restricted in her ability to engage in her chosen profession and look after her three children.
The patient sued the hospital where the hernia repair operation had taken place in the Supreme Court of NSW, in both battery and medical negligence.