Part of a needle from an intravenous drip was left embedded in Hazel McMillan's forearm after she had a hysterectomy operation in 1988.
Doctors at North Middlesex hospital, Edmonton, attempted to remove the piece of plastic under local anaesthetic but were unable to locate it as it had travelled several inches along her vein. They eventually extracted the piece by taking her back to theatre and carrying out surgery using general anaesthetic.
She subsequently experienced intense pain which prevented her from using her hand, and suffered extensive scars to her wrist. It was not until two years after the incident that a doctor told her nerves had been damaged.
Doctors at North Middlesex denied the damage had been caused by their action, but a surgeon at University College hospital who examined Mrs McMillan rejected their argument.
'These nerves were cut during the course of an abortive attempt at digging around in the forearm to remove the needle. It was their failure to locate and remove the needle using a recognised and acceptable surgical technique that constitutes negligence, his report stated.
After legal advice, Mrs McMillan decided to sue New River health authority. The case was settled out of court with Mrs McMillan receiving pounds 17,000 for personal injury.
At her Tottenham home yesterday, she said the payout was inadequate compensation. She is in constant pain, and her badly-scarred arm regularly swells.
'I have a dull ache in my wrist all the time and I can't pick anything up without dropping it; the hand is very weak. I am having painkilling injections and acupuncture but I haven't been able to work since since March 1991 and have lost around pounds 48,000 in earnings.
'As a nurse I believe the North Middlesex didn't respond properly when they realised there was this part of a needle in my vein. They should have put a tourniquet around my arm to stop it moving, and they should have X-rayed it instead of digging around.
Sarah Newcombe, solicitor for New River, said: 'The health authority has always endeavoured to deal with Mrs McMillan's case sympathetically and is pleased that her claim has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.Reuse content