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Medical: Spinal anaesthetic needle breakage.


Fuller v Australian Capital Territory [2022] ACTSC 361 (On JADE).

The plaintiff brought proceedings against the defendant (Canberra Hospital) on the basis of vicarious liability for the alleged negligence of an anaesthetic registrar and a consultant anaesthetist. During the administration of a spinal anaesthetic for a c/section delivery at the Canberra Hospital, the spinal needle being used broke in half with one half remaining lodged in the plaintiff’s spinal column.

The trial judge found that the risk of the spinal needle breaking during the administration of a spinal anaesthetic and causing harm was foreseeable. Although a very rare event, the available medical literature directed to this occurrence documents it. 

The Court found that  the most likely explanation for the broken spinal needle was that Dr Stephens hit bone or hard ligamentous material in seeking to insert the spinal needle ([64]). 

The decision discusses attempts to avoid the risk by repositioning the needle and replacing it.

Ultimately the trial judge found that the surgeons acted in the manner accepted as competent professional practice at the time.

The claim was dismissed and an order made for the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs.

[BillMaddensWordpress #2076]


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