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Damage to spinal accessory nerve during biopsy of lymph node

Defendants – Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich


Client was referred to the hospital by her GP for an opinion on an enlarged lymph node on her neck. She was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a biopsy, and a consent form was signed.

Soon after the biopsy, the client noticed that her right arm was painful and swollen. Her GP provided painkillers.

Her arm became very heavy and she was unable to lift it.

Approximately 6 months after the biopsy, she saw the surgeon for a review and complained about the condition of her arm and shoulder. She was advised that a spinal accessory nerve had been severed  during her biopsy operation which was causing the pain and loss of use.

She was admitted for a repair of the nerve, which took place 7 months after the biopsy. She made an excellent recovery.


  • The spinal accessory nerve was severed during surgery
  • The surgeon should have realised this at the time and repaired the damage
  • There was a 6 month delay in recognising the damage.
  • The client sustained significant scarring as a result of the repair


The defendants denied liability and court proceedings were issued and served. The case was listed for trial. The defendants then made an offer and term of settlement were eventually agreed. The client received damages of  £30,000.