02 Jun 2017

Clinical Negligence

Delay in Diagnosis – Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a painful swelling of the appendix. The appendix is a small, thin pouch about 5-10cm (2-4 inches) long. It is connected to the large intestine, where stools (faeces) are formed.  Nobody knows exactly why we have an appendix, but removing it isn’t harmful.

In most cases of appendicitis, the appendix needs to be surgically removed as soon as possible.  Removal of the appendix, known as an appendectomy or appendicectomy, is one of the most common operations in the UK and its success rate is excellent.  The operation is most commonly performed as keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), which involves making several small cuts in your abdomen, through which special surgical instruments are inserted.

If diagnosed in a timely fashion, ie before rupture, most people make a full recovery from an appendectomy in a couple of weeks.   However, if the diagnosis is not made quickly enough, open surgery (laparotomy), where a larger, single cut is made in the abdomen, becomes necessary.  The recovery from a laparotomy is obviously longer and more complex.

If your appendix bursts (ruptures), it releases bacteria into other parts of the body. This can cause a condition called peritonitis if the infection spreads to the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen.  If peritonitis isn’t treated immediately, it can cause long-term problems and may even be fatal. Treatment for peritonitis usually involves antibiotics and the surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy).  Sometimes you would need a period in the Intensive Care Unit in order to recover.

We have settled various claims relating to the delayed diagnosis of a appendicitis.  Cases where the appendix has ruptured and peritonitis is present are more likely to lead to a successful claim.  Also, those operations where an open procedure has been needed instead of a laparoscopic procedure because the delay in diagnosis has made the removal of the appendix more difficult.

We have a register of experienced surgeons on hand whom we can approach to comment upon the standard of care you received whilst in hospital.  If you feel you suffered as a result of failure to diagnose your appendicitis soon enough, don’t delay – telephone and speak to one of our clinical negligence team today.

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