Patient receives five-figure settlement from Harley Street spinal surgeon following treatment for prolapsed disc

September 6, 2012
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A 27-year-old man has negotiated an out of court settlement of £40,000 plus his legal costs from a Harley Street surgeon who, it is alleged, injected an area of his spine unnecessarily causing a massive haematoma and long-term mobility issues.

Stiva Bailey, a student from Battersea, received privately funded treatment when he was 23 years old from consultant spinal surgeon, Mr Richard Coombs. The treatment was for a prolapsed disc that was causing him back pain and sciatica. Mr Coombs recommended that Mr Bailey should have a series of injections at 3 disc levels into his spinal facet joints.

During the procedure, performed by Mr Coombs at the Cromwell Hospital, London in December 2008, one of Mr Bailey’s arteries was inadvertently damaged by a needle that was inserted into the L3/4 disc level. The damage led to the development of a massive haematoma – a collection of blood forming inside his body – which was not discovered until months later.

Mr Bailey said: “Days following the treatment I developed excruciating pain in my left thigh that I’d never experienced before. It was so severe that I couldn’t put weight on the leg and found it difficult to walk – I basically couldn’t get out of bed. I ended up in A&E where I saw a neurosurgeon who referred me back to Mr Coombs.”

Despite recording a suspicion that Mr Bailey may have developed a haematoma, it is alleged that Mr Coombs negligently failed to refer him for an MRI scan. It was not until three months later, and whilst still in significant and incapacitating pain, that Mr Bailey was finally referred to St George’s Hospital in Tooting by another consultant, where he received successful emergency treatment to reduce the haematoma.

Mr Bailey then decided to pursue legal action.

“I went to see a lawyer, and they obtained expert opinion evidence to suggest that the treatment Mr Coombs recommended to me was unnecessary since the L3/L4 disc that was injected and damaged didn’t show any abnormalities on MRI scan and therefore didn’t require treatment. I have no idea why Mr Coombs recommended a 3-level procedure to me instead of simply treating the one disc level at L5/S1 that was obviously shown to be prolapsed and responsible for causing my symptoms”

It is alleged by Mr Bailey’s solicitors, medical negligence specialists Bolt Burdon Kemp, that the treatment Mr Coombs recommended was entirely unnecessary from a clinical perspective. They allege that the treatment was not required to diagnose the source of the pain. Neither (it is alleged) was it required to provide therapy for his condition.

Mr Coombs denies these allegations. He also contests the extent of the damage caused by the haematoma.

Despite the successful treatment at St George’s Hospital, Mr Bailey has suffered permanent nerve damage causing numbness and weakness in his left thigh.

Sarmad Gassoub, medical negligence specialist solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “It is alleged that Mr Coombs recommended and delivered treatment that was entirely unnecessary, and which has resulted in an inadvertent but devastating complication which has left Stiva with an injury which will continue to be felt by him for the rest of his life”.

Mr Bailey insists the legal case was never about money but about ensuring that no-one else suffers as he did. He added: “I couldn’t have got through this without my parents’ support. The last few years have been really challenging, particularly due to the number of operations I’ve needed and their slow recovery periods. I am extremely grateful to St George’s Hospital in Tooting for their successful interventions since the procedure in December 2008.

“The compensation will be helpful in trying to re-establish a career working from home and will provide some much-needed financial security, but I’m just pleased to have succeeded in this case and I hope that it prevents others from suffering as I did.”

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