Patient discharged with ankle fractures

08 November 2023

Patient discharged with ankle fractures

Alice Folliss, an associate in our serious injury team, recently settled a case for a client who was discharged from hospital with fractures to both ankles that had not healed. 

Our client suffered a fall whilst on a camping trip with her two young children. She was in a significant pain after the fall and was taken to the local hospital by ambulance where it was discovered that she had fractured both ankles.

Our client was initially advised that her fractures could be treated without surgery and that she would need to remain in a wheelchair for six weeks. She was discharged home the following day. 

She returned to the fracture clinic for a review four days later and was seen by a different doctor. This doctor advised that her right ankle needed to remain non-weightbearing, but that she could have a weightbearing cast on her left ankle so that she could pivot and transfer on the left leg. Our client told us that in order for the weightbearing cast to be applied, her ankles had to be manipulated which was exceptionally painful, more so than the original injury. 

She returned home but remained in significant pain. The next day she returned to the hospital where she was seen by a third doctor. This doctor noted that she had been in increased pain since the new cast had been applied and said that she would need to be admitted to hospital for surgery to both ankles.

This was very upsetting for our client, particularly as she had been led to believe her fractures could be treated without surgery.  She was also left feeling confused by the conflicting advice she had received from three doctors and was unsure who to trust.  She underwent surgery to both ankles two days later and was discharged from hospital.

After her discharge she experienced swelling of her leg and some numbness around her ankle and foot. 

Around six weeks after her surgery, she attended the fracture clinic for a post-operative review where she saw yet another doctor. She explained that she was continuing to have problems, but despite this the doctor did not examine her ankle for any tenderness or issue with range of movement. The doctor reported that the new x-rays were satisfactory, and our client was discharged from any further hospital follow up and referred for physiotherapy. 

She continued to experience pain and swelling in her ankle, which was particularly troublesome if she walked or drove any distance, which was very distressing because she had an active lifestyle and two young children. She instructed Shoosmiths serious injury team to consider whether her poor outcome was due to negligent treatment. 

The Claim

An independent medical opinion was obtained which advised that our client’s ankle fracture had clearly not united by the time she was discharged from hospital six weeks after her surgery. The expert advised that it was inappropriate to report the x-ray imaging as being satisfactory and that she should not have been discharged to physiotherapy.  As a result, our client has suffered avoidable pain and discomfort for a number of years. 

Liability was denied in full by the defendant hospital who attempted to argue that it would be reasonable to discharge a patient to physiotherapy on the basis that they would return to hospital if their symptoms remained troublesome. However, a settlement was reached, and our client received compensation. 

After the settlement of the claim, our client said: 

“I appreciate your help and support over these many years and my many tears. Thank you, Alice.”



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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