An NHS Trust had performed an operation on the claimant to treat her scoliosis, a condition which causes curvature of the spine. During the procedure, one of the pedicle screws used to improve the angle of the claimant’s spine compressed her spinal cord, resulting in paraplegia. The High Court held that the damage was caused by the surgeon’s failure to use bi planar imaging, which would have shown the depth and positioning of the screw. The Judge, applying the test of a reasonably careful surgeon, held that, although it may be safe for some surgeons not to use such imaging, it would depend on their level of skill and experience. As the surgeon in this case only performed a few such operations a year, his failure to use bi planar imaging was negligent. In addition, the Trust was negligent in its failure to provide spinal cord monitoring which, if provided, would have been used by the surgeon continually to assess the function of the patient’s spine.

Laura May (A Child by her Litigation Friend Christine May) v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust [2009] EWHC 3175 (QB)