A New Zealand woman lost both of her legs following complications from surgery, with the care provided to her immediately after the procedure now criticised in a report.
The woman, aged in her 70s and referred to as “Mrs A” in a report by the NZ Health and Disability Commissioner, had both her legs amputated two weeks after experiencing complications during varicose vein surgery.
An investigation has now found that her doctor failed to act to help her.
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Mrs A first had an appointment with the doctor for treatment of varicose veins in her legs on January 22 in 2020.
She reported her varicose veins were causing her pain and causing heavy, restless legs and cramps at night.
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Mrs A had undergone surgery about 40 years earlier, but the varicose veins had gradually returned.
She also suffered “debilitating” swollen or inflamed veins.
The doctor, who also remains unnamed, noted this was at risk of escalating to deep vein thrombosis.
Mrs A (not pictured) underwent treatment for varicose veins, which led to her having both legs amputated below the knee. Credit: Getty Images
To treat Mrs A’s varicose veins, a chemical was injected into her veins. During the procedure on February 19, the doctor suspected that he might have injected the chemical into the main artery in Mrs A’s right foot. This was after he had already completed the procedure on her left leg.
This was a complication that had been discussed with Mrs A before the procedure, but had been labelled a “very rare complication”.
He checked her feet and noted there did not seem to be a noticeable difference between them.
Mrs A later said she had experienced pain during the injection on her left leg, and had been about to say something as he was performing the procedure on her right leg.
As she was about to say something, her right ankle “exploded in pain” and she swore.
The doctor later realised there may have been a complication in the procedure on both legs, and prescribed medication as well as scheduling future appointments to keep an eye on it.
On February 25, Mrs A was taken to hospital for “discoloured and painful feet”, due to a lack of blood flow. On March 6, both her legs were amputated below the knee due to tissue necrotitis.
New Zealand Aged Care Commissioner Carolyn Cooper. Credit: New Zealand Health and Disability Commissioner
The doctor has since sold his practice and retired.
Mrs A told the Aged Care Commissioner that she felt the doctor should have been aware of all the possible outcomes and should have acted instead of adopting a ‘watch and see’ approach.
Aged Care Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said she was “critical” of the doctor not referring Mrs A to an emergency facility as soon as he realised the complication had occurred.
There was disputed evidence given about the use of compression stockings, with Cooper expressing concern over the possible use of them in the hours following the procedure.
Cooper found the doctor “did not provide Mrs A with services with reasonable care and skill”.
The doctor said he is “truly sorry” for the “devastating complication” and that he often reflects on the case.
He also stated that it caused him to introduce changes to his practice and the way he teaches.
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