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Case Study – Infective Endocarditis Claim

Posted on March 20th 2015

Oliver and Co has recently successfully recovered compensation in excess of £600,000 for a Client, after GP’s failed to diagnose possible infective endocarditis.

Infective endocarditis is an infection that affects part of the tissue that lines the inside of the heart chambers. The infection usually involves one or more heart valves which are part of the endocardium. It is a serious infection that is life-threatening, and known sufferers of the condition are at increased risk of developing an infection after invasive medical treatment, including dental treatment.

In 2007 our Client underwent dental treatment and thereafter began to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms, including a raised temperature, night sweats, aches, shivers, general tiredness, weight loss, lethargy and intermittent chest pain. She attended her GP on many occasions complaining of feeling unwell and despite the known risk of infective endocarditis, no referral to hospital was made by the GP.

Later in 2007 our Client was admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack. Shortly after receiving emergency treatment the Client suffered a stroke. It was subsequently discovered that the Client was in fact suffering from infective endocarditis (rather than a heart attack), requiring treatment with antibiotics.

The stoke had left our Client with ongoing difficulties with visual loss, unsteadiness and short term memory loss. In addition, she also suffered severe depression. Our Client required a lot of assistance with personal care and the activities of daily living. Her life expectancy was reduced and adaptations were required to her home.

In December 2008 we instructed to represent the Client in a claim for Clinical Negligence.

After significant and extensive initial investigations, which included a thorough review of the Client’s entire medical records, We brought an action on the Client’s behalf against the Client’s GPs. It was alleged that that had the Client been referred to hospital earlier, with a diagnosis of possible infective endocarditis, she would have been treated appropriately with antibiotics. The Client would have avoided the chest pain in late 2007, would not have been diagnosed and treated for a heart attack, and would have avoided the stroke.

Liability was not admitted in full by the Defendant Solicitor’s. It was strongly denied that an earlier diagnosis would have made a difference to the Client.

We remained determined that the Defendant’s had breached their duty of care to the Client. If a correct diagnosis was made earlier then the Client would have avoided the suspected heart attack and stroke.

Expert evidence was sought from numerous specialists including a GP, Cardiologist, Neurologist, and a Psychiatrist. The evidence supported our claim that the Defendant’s had breached their duty of care to the Client by failing to consider a diagnosis of infective endocarditis. Furthermore it was also found; had the Defendant referred the Client to hospital with a diagnosis of possible infective endocarditis earlier, the episode of chest pain would have been avoided and so would have the stroke.

The Defendant Solicitor’s continued to dispute the claim, and put forward a derisory offer in an attempt to settle. Not satisfied, we issued court proceedings against the negligent GPs. In a last attempt to reach a settlement agreement before the final hearing at court, a meeting was organised with the Defendant Solicitors. After significant negotiation, we were delighted to agree a figure in excess of £600,000 in full and final settlement of the Client’s claim.

This settlement figure included a claim for General Damages, past and future care and assistance, loss of earnings, pension loss, household adaptations, aids and equipment.

What is being done about infective endocarditis?

The devastating effects of infective endocarditis are known, but despite this recent research published by the American Heart Association in Chicago suggest the number of people developing the potentially fatal condition has increased since 2008.

The National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence (NICE) have stated that they are reviewing its guidance on the use of antibiotics to prevent infective endocarditis.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, recently said;

“We will immediately look in detail at data published that shows an increase in the number of cases of infective endocarditis…new evidence has called into question the safety of current guidance, it is right that we review that guidance as quickly as possible”.

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