Most clinical negligence lawyers will have encountered cases involving late diagnosis of appendicitis, sometimes with catastrophic consequences for the patient. However, a recent study from the University of Birmingham published in the British Journal of Surgery indicates a growing problem with precisely the reverse: i.e. healthy appendices being removed unnecessarily, which creates its own set of problems for the patient not only in terms of undergoing pointless surgery but also the post-surgical risk of adhesions and other complications.

The study suggests that out of the 90,000 appendectomies performed annually in the UK over 5,000 may be unnecessary, with women disproportionately impacted. While 12% of male patients admitted for appendicitis can expect to have a perfectly healthy appendix removed, the figure is almost one third for women. This gender disparity is thought by the authors of the study to be partially accounted for by women's greater susceptibility to a range of intra-abdominal issues which can be mistaken for appendicitis.

The statistics revealed by the study are not mirrored in other European countries, suggesting a problem with the broader medical culture in the UK, where appendectomy is often decided upon without a CT scan (the gold standard for diagnosing appendicitis) based entirely on signs, symptoms, and blood work. Likewise, UK surgeons are much more likely to remove an appendix which appears healthy on surgical inspection so as to pre-empt future bouts of appendicitis. 

In defence of these practices, the Royal College of Surgeons has pointed out that failure to surgically explore suspected appendicitis can have serious and indeed fatal consequences for the patient, and also cites concerns over exposing patients to the radiation from CT scans unnecessarily.

The study comes not long after recent stories in the popular press suggesting that Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre is in the unenviable position of having one of the highest payout rates in the country for surgery-related clinical negligence claims.

Freeths Solicitors - How we can help

As clinical negligence lawyers we represent people who have suffered avoidable harm due to failures of medical care and delayed or inappropriate treatment. We know how difficult life can be for those who have suffered and for their families. We are able to assist by ensuring they have access to the services they require, have the funds to pay for private care and are compensated for the harm.

Freeths Clinical Negligence Solicitors have a national reputation for providing first class advice on all medical claims. If you are concerned about the medical care you or a loved one has received, please contact one of our national team free:-

Phillip McGough, Clinical Negligence Executive (Nottingham) on 0845 050 3290/0115 936 9369 or phillip.mcgough@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Nottingham) on 0845 272 5724 or jane.williams@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford) 0186 578 1019 or carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby) on 0845 272 5677 or karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/