Surgical negligence leading to permanent damage to spinal accessory nerve, recurrent laryngeal nerve and development of Frey’s Syndrome – settled for £490,000

Richard Lodge acted for our client who suffered injuries to her spinal accessory nerve, current laryngeal nerve and developed a rare condition called Frey’s Syndrome following overzealous, and unnecessary surgery for the treatment of thyroid medullary carcinoma, a rare thyroid cancer.

Our client underwent a left thyroid lobectomy (a diagnostic surgical procedure) following symptoms of a hoarse voice and a presence of a lump within the central part of her neck.  This procedure revealed a diagnosis of medullary carcinoma cancer of the thyroid.  She was informed that she needed to undergo a completion lobectomy and neck dissection to explore the lymph nodes on either side of the neck.  During these follow up surgical procedures our client’s spinal accessory nerve was preserved on the right but sacrificed on the left because it involved nodes which looked malignant.  Her left recurrent laryngeal nerve was also damaged.

The treating surgeon subsequently told our client that there was no cancer in any of the lymph nodes moved on both sides of her neck and that the carcinoma had been confined to the central part of her neck.

Due to her spinal accessory nerve injury our client experienced pain around her shoulder, weakness of the shoulder girdle and numbness below her chin.  She suffered pain on a daily basis.  Pain and weakness affected her ability to undertake activities of daily living.  She struggled to carry out domestic activities such as ironing, was unable to lift heavy pots and pans in the kitchen or embark upon general household maintenance and gardening tasks that required some strength and range of movement in the arm.  Due to weakness and restricted movement in her shoulders, she required assistance with dressing such as when pulling clothes over her head and was unable to shave under her arms, shave her legs or wash her hair.

The recurrent laryngeal nerve injury resulted in a changed tone and strength of our client's voice.  By the end of each day, or after speaking for lengthy periods, she would be left with a hoarse and squeaky voice.

Our client also developed Frey’s Syndrome which caused her to sweat violently around her mouth and neck when she saw and consumed food and drink.  This condition was managed by regular Botox injections.

Our client brought a claim against her local NHS Trust who performed the surgical procedure.  She alleged that it was negligent because after diagnosing medullary carcinoma of the thyroid she should have referred her to a tertiary centre for more specialist treatment and diagnostic procedures.  It was also claimed that the surgeons were negligent by performing a radical neck dissection without a firm diagnosis that our client had metastatic disease in her lymph nodes.  This meant that our client underwent more extensive surgery than was required resulting in unnecessary, and avoidable, damage.

Following exchange of expert evidence, and a meeting between the experts instructed by both parties to discuss the issues in dispute, the Defendant admitted liability.

After negotiations between the parties the claim was settled out of court for the sum of £490,000.  This sum included an award for our client’s pain and suffering and past and ongoing losses including care, therapy, the cost of purchasing aids and equipment, loss of earnings, loss of pension, household expenditure and medical treatment.

If you, or a member of your family has experienced a similar situation and would like to know more, please visit our clinical negligence page or email clinnegenquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk.

Thank you so very much for all of your hard work you and your colleagues have achieved for me.  All the way through you have been outstanding, thank you is not even near how you have been.

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