A New Zealand woman who lost part of her jaw after being misdiagnosed with mouth cancer has revealed she now struggles to walk.
The unnamed 63-year-old has launched a compensation claim against the University of Otago Dental Hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand, after part of her jaw was removed. She has been left with a number of health issues since the surgery.
According to a local newspaper, the misdiagnosis came about after a laboratory worker dropped two tissue samples on the floor and mixed them up.
It turned out the woman was actually suffering from a sinus infection and swelling caused by a tooth implant. However, doctors told her she had mouth cancer and that the right side of her upper jaw would need to be surgically removed.
As part of the procedure, her jaw was reconstructed using bone and blood vessels from her leg. However, complications developed following the operation.
The surgeon who performed the operation, Dr Iain Wilson, said: “Her donor wound site got infected and she had difficulty walking.”
Medics later discovered the mix up with tissue samples, and tests showed the patient did not have cancer.
Dr Wilson added: “I am being asked to believe two samples were being processed simultaneously and the pots were simultaneously dropped.
“I can’t for the life of me understand how you can get tissue samples mixed up. I am astonished and horrified by these lab mix-ups.”
The woman has received an apology from the hospital and an investigation has been started into the matter by the Health and Disability Commission.
Prof Peter Crampton, head of medicine at the university, said: “We have taken this incident very seriously, and have already taken all appropriate measures to minimise the likelihood of any such incidents occurring again.
“The patient was contacted very soon after the incident was discovered, and we offered a full apology at that time.”