Sunderland man’s ‘war’ surgery failed

Sunderland Royal Hospital
Sunderland Royal Hospital
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A QUADRIPLEGIC died after a Crimean War surgical technique failed.

William Minto, of Linfield, Ryhope, was left in “pain and torture” by the procedure, carried out to a wound caused when a van door was closed on his left leg, an inquest heard.

After it failed to heal at Sunderland Royal Hospital, the 63-year-old – who lost the use of his limbs a decade ago when he fell down a club’s stairs while helping an old woman from the bar – was referred to the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND).

To improve circulation affected by narrowed blood vessels, plastic surgeons chose a method used to treat soldiers on Crimean War battlefields in the 1850s, transferring tissue by attaching the legs together with a flap of healthy skin to the damaged area.

But consultant Matthias Erdmann, who carried out the procedure in April, explained when a colleague separated the legs 10 days later, the wound had not healed.

“The blood supply was so poor, it was never going to be sufficient.”

The inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Minto had wanted to go home, but developed infections when he was discharged.

Mr Erdmann said the patient was lying on his back and had a lower resistance to bugs which would have had an impact on his health. Also, the surgery left him unable to have physiotherapy.

Mr Minto, who later had the troubled leg amputated, was readmitted to UHND when his condition deteriorated, and died on June 3.

His family asked why the limb was not amputated initially.

Mr Erdmann replied: “In retrospect it’s easy to say ‘chop the limb off’.

“You need legs and arms on the body to maintain equilibrium,” adding the loss of a limb can cause falls because of the imbalance.

He said he knew of no other instances where the method had not worked.

When relatives said Mr Minto was in “pain and torture” following surgery, Mr Erdmann explained it was chosen over a skin graft from other areas of the body, which would have proved difficult and required up to 10 hours of surgery.

A post mortem examination established the cause of death as pneumonia and the non-healing wound.

Deputy coroner Brenda Davidson said: “It’s very difficult to decide whether the evidence supports if this was because of a result of the accident, or the result of medical treatment or of natural causes.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham

Verdict: Open