Q. When my daughter was 9 months old I took her to hospital for tests as she was not gaining weight as expected and had delayed motor development. She was given a ‘sweat test’, which involved applying metal electrodes to her arm.
Initially my daughter was left with blisters, but when I took her back to hospital three days later the hospital advised that she had sustained a partial thickness burn. As a result she has been left with scarring to her arm. I raised a concern with the hospital and following an internal investigation it transpires that one of the electrodes used during the sweat test was missing its rubber pad. Was this negligent and do we have a claim against the hospital?
A: A sweat test is a screening tool for Cystic Fibrosis. Metal electrodes are applied to stimulate the skin, so that it produces enough sweat to be analysed. The concentration of chloride in sweat is elevated in individuals with Cystic Fibrosis.
The sweat test should be very safe. The area of the body tested may stay red for a few hours after the test, but it is not common or expected for a patient to suffer burns. The electrodes should all contain suitably thick protective rubber pads to minimise the risk of acid burns. It is fair to assume that the missing rubber pad was the cause of your daughter’s burn.
It is the responsibility of hospital staff to ensure that the electrodes are regularly inspected and, if necessary, discarded and replaced if they show any irregularities. Sweat collection must also be performed by fully trained and experienced staff.
The hospital failings here appear to be negligent as a duty of care was breached, which appears to have caused your daughter to suffer injury. You should seek advice from a local specialist clinical negligence solicitor as soon as possible.