Strokes related to surgery - when to seek legal advice | Bolt Burdon Kemp Strokes related to surgery - when to seek legal advice | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Strokes related to surgery – when to seek legal advice

No surgery is risk free. And while some complications, such as fatigue, sore throat, and nausea, are relatively minor, others, like infection or pneumonia are more serious. Strokes occurring around the time of surgery, known as perioperative stroke, can be devasting, leading to long hospital stays and increased risk of death or long-term disability. In this situation, how do you know if the stroke is due to lack of medical and surgical care, for which you can claim compensation, or if it is a tragic but unavoidable outcome?

Claims for compensation for perioperative stroke are complex and challenging but, as recent cases in our Adult Brain Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp show, can succeed with the right experts in place.

What is a stroke and what causes it?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted, with potentially serious and life-threatening consequences. There are two main types of stroke: ischaemic, caused by a blood clot, and haemorrhagic, caused by a burst blood vessel.

A stroke shouldn’t be confused with a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain, although a TIA can be a warning of a future stroke.

The risk of having a stroke is increased if you are overweight, drink excessively or smoke, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, are physically inactive, have an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia), diabetes or a history of TIAs. Even routine surgeries can increase the risk of stroke due to post-surgery immobility.

What is a perioperative stroke, and can it be avoided?

A perioperative stroke is a stroke occurring anytime between the time a patient is hospitalised for surgery until the patient is discharged from the hospital.

Most perioperative strokes are caused by blood clots (ischaemic). Medication such as aspirin or heparin can usually prevent these. However, these medications can also increase the risk of bleeding, so doctors must balance the risk of ischaemic stroke against the risk of significant bleeding complications.

Haemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by bleeding into or around the brain, can also occur perioperatively, although they are less common than ischaemic strokes. They may be caused by a sudden surge of blood pressure, medications, or directly by neurosurgery.

Is there a claim?

In stroke claims, we rely on experts to determine if the healthcare provider breached their duty of care.

Depending on the type of physician involved in your care, such as an orthopaedic surgeon, or an emergency doctor, we consult specialists in those fields. At BBK, we work with top specialists to gather evidence to support your case and prove negligence.

Once a breach of duty is established, we must show a direct link between the healthcare provider’s actions and your injuries. This means proving your injuries would not have occurred without the breach of duty and the provider should have foreseen the risk of such injuries.

In stroke cases, we often consult different experts to analyse various aspects of the stroke’s cause. For example, we may involve a haematology (blood) expert to assess how medications like aspirin could have reduced the risk of ischaemic stroke.

In a recent case, our client underwent surgery to remove a rare benign tumour. The surgery resulted in an artery injury and a haemorrhagic stroke.

While the healthcare provider admitted to breaching their duty when they failed to act five years earlier, they denied this caused the stroke. Our team believed a different type of surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, would have been safer and, had it taken place when it should have, would have avoided the stroke five years later. We consulted the UK’s leading expert in this field to provide evidence supporting our client’s case.

This example highlights our commitment to taking on challenging cases and working with the best experts to ensure our clients receive the justice they deserve. Stroke claims can be complex, but with the right experts on our side, we can help stroke survivors navigate the legal process and seek fair compensation.

If you or a loved one have had a stroke related to surgery and believe it could have been avoided, please get in touch with one of our friendly and knowledgeable solicitors in our specialist Adult Brain Injury Team to see how we can help.

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