Slipped Upper Femoral Epiphysis (SUFE): Compensation and Provisional Damages

Mon 15th Apr 2024
Slipped Upper Femoral Epiphysis (SUFE): Compensation and Provisional Damages

Slipped Upper Femoral Epiphysis (SUFE) typically occurs in young people and can cause life-changing complications if missed or ineffectively treated.

Catching it early is imperative to prevent further complications down the line. That is why if you have experienced this condition, and faced delays in diagnosis or treatment, you may be able to claim compensation for clinical negligence. It’s not only important to secure immediate compensation but potentially also provisional damages. Provisional damages may be appropriate in certain cases and allow a claimant to claim an initial award for damages with a proviso that they can come back to court on a later occasion and seek additional damages.

The Coodes team are experts at identifying clinical negligence and supporting victims to claim compensation. Julie Hatton, from Coodes’ Clinical Negligence team, explains SUFE and highlights the importance of being awarded adequate compensation.

What is Slipped Upper Femoral Epiphysis (SUFE)?

The upper femoral epiphysis is the top part of the femur which forms the ball part of the hip’s ‘ball and socket’ joint. SUFE is a condition where the upper femoral epiphysis becomes gradually displaced in relation to the rest of the femur. This displacement leads to a gradually increased deformity of the hip joint.

Typically, the condition is more common in boys than girls. For girls, the onset age is 11 to 12 while for boys it is 12 to 13. The NHS notes that SUFE is seen in 10.8 cases per 100,000 children.

SUFE is not caused by injury but develops gradually over time and has been attributed to rapid growth spurts. Typically, as the hip begins to deform, the affected leg becomes increasingly shortened and externally rotated. The hip joint itself will also become inflamed making it an overfull painful and discomforting condition.

Dangers of Misdiagnosis or Failure to Spot SUFE

The good news is that SUFE can be adequately treated if the condition is caught early. Many claims arise because the condition presents with pain in the knee but only the knee rather than the hip is examined. Failure to spot or adequately treat SUFE can lead to severe consequences and the condition will progress if left untreated. Risks such as deformity, limited mobility and early onset arthritis can not only impact someone’s physical health but also their mental health. Overall, it can affect a young person’s confidence and quality of life if missed or mistreated.

Delays in Treatment

Once SUFE is diagnosed treatment is required without delay. Early diagnosis and treatment of SUFE means the long term prognosis is better for the child and they have a reduced risk of long-term complications.

A delay in diagnosing or treating SUFE causes prolonged pain and disability. The child may need to undergo a hip replacement at a very young age. This means that two to three further hip revisions may be required throughout their life.

However, by the time the third revision is needed, usually around 60 years of age, hip revision is not possible. Instead, a procedure called an excision arthroplasty is needed. The resulting effect is the claimant needing to use a wheelchair and live in specially adapted accommodation.

In cases where there was a delay in diagnosing and treating SUFE, provisional damages might need to be sought to settle a clinical negligence claim. This is on the basis that the child can return to court later on in life for further damages.

Case Example

The Coodes Clinical Negligence Team are experts at supporting claimants. When it comes to claiming compensation, it’s necessary to consider whether there should be an immediate damages award with an order for provisional damages.

For example, in a recent case a fourteen-year-old suffering from hip pain was referred by their GP to the hospital for a suspected SUFE. X-rays were taken but the SUFE was missed, and the condition was not picked up until two years later. By this time, the condition had deteriorated, and it was too late for the client to undergo straightforward surgery. Instead, they had to undergo a total hip replacement at the age of 17. Now, they will require two to three revision operations in their lifetime. By age 60, the claimant may require an excision arthroplasty which has huge implications.

In this case the hospital admitted fault and a settlement of the claim was negotiated on the basis that the claimant would receive immediate damages. More importantly, an order for provisional damages was included. This allows the claimant to ask for further compensation from the court, if at any time during their life, they require the excision arthroplasty procedure.

SUFE Compensation Claims

Cases like the above don’t only reiterate the importance of diagnosing and treating SUFE early, but also the need for adequate compensation. Provisional damages are vital in cases where an instance of clinical negligence will continue to impact a person’s quality of life in the future.

Coodes’ Clinical Negligence team have experience with a variety of cases and is on hand to deliver positive outcomes for our clients. We can offer you expert, sympathetic, and confidential advice tailored to your experience and help you progress your claim.

For more information, get in touch with Julie Hatton from our Clinical Negligence team or use the contact form on our website. 

Mon 15th Apr 2024

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