Every year one in 100 people in the UK breaks a bone.
Around half of the estimated 20 million visits to Accident and Emergency departments(A&E) involve having an X-ray, usually to check for a bone injury.
Now research has suggested that thousands of these patients leave A&E with doctors having failed to spot or diagnose their fracture.
“Numerous studies have shown that failure to detect a fracture on an X-ray is the most common diagnostic error made in A&E,” says Michael Kelly, consultant orthopaedic trauma surgeon at North Bristol NHS Trust.
Alarmingly, a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2002 showed that junior doctors in A&E miss up to 39% of ‘clinically significant abnormalities’ on X-rays.
In 2015, The Daily Mail reported on the case of Shirley Johnstone, who was told by the A&E doctor that her elbow showed no sign of fracture, despite her feeling pain.
‘It was a relief there was no serious damage. But I was in agony — I couldn’t move or straighten my arm, and felt I needed more than just paracetamol and a few days off work,’ recalled Shirley, 60, a chef from Great Wakering in Essex.
Six days after she was seen at A&E, Shirley received a phone call from the hospital. Doctors had reviewed the X-ray and there was a fracture after all.
It was a mistake that is still affecting Shirley’s life four years later.
A second X-ray soon showed that the fractured bone fragments had moved 4mm in the intervening days. Her arm was put in a cast, and a week later she had to have surgery to pin the bone in place.
But a year after the operation she developed a painful infection because fluid had built up around the fracture. And three years later she still gets pain in the joint, especially in cold weather. ‘I had to have so much time off work, I was demoted and put on a lower wage,’ she says. ‘I’ve never got back on track.’
Shirley has never had a proper explanation for the delay in spotting the fracture. ‘One doctor told me, “I’m afraid sometimes these things get missed”,’ she says.
Have you or a loved one suffered due to a medical professional missing your fracture? There are legal experts who can help you claim compensation for the pain you’ve suffered and any costs incurred as a result.
At The Specter Partnership, our team of medical negligence experts have over 25 years experience in winning claims for people with fractures and broken bones. Call us today for a free consultation about claiming for medical negligence.
Ring 0800 019 3460 now, or fill in our quick online Claim Form here.