Anna's story: Misdiagnosed ACL that led to Medbelle
When 22-year-old Anna heard a loud pop in her knee she was told it was just damaged cartilage. It took six months to get a correct diagnosis: an ACL injury. Thankfully, Medbelle arranged surgery with a leading consultant to prevent any further damage before it was too late.
Anna's story in brief
- Anna injured her knee playing netball and was told it was just damaged cartilage.
- After six months of worsening pain, Anna was unable to walk her dog or ride her horse, so she went to a private physiotherapist, who then referred her to Medbelle.
- Medbelle quickly organised a consultation with a leading consultant orthopaedic knee surgeon, Mr James Bidwell, at Aberdeen Orthopaedics, who booked Anna for ACL reconstruction surgery.
- Medbelle arranged all of the logistics of Anna’s care, helped her prepare for consultations and surgery, and supported her through her rehab. Six months after surgery, she is almost back to her old active lifestyle.
The full story
When Anna first injured her knee, she says, ‘I wasn’t aware of the long recovery that was ahead of me.’ This was partly down to a misdiagnosis. Despite hearing a loud popping sound when she turned whilst playing netball, she was told the injury was likely to be just damaged cartilage.
‘After a few sessions of physiotherapy, I was discharged and told I could go back to my usual lifestyle, even though I was still struggling with normal daily tasks like stairs, bending down on my knees or even just walking.’
In reality, that popping sound was her anterior cruciate ligament - known as ACL - tearing.
ACL injuries can have serious long-term effects if not treated properly, causing further damage to the knee or causing the knee to give way entirely.
The uncertainty of misdiagnosis
Anna wasn’t aware of any of this because, for six months, her previous diagnosis didn't explain the pain she was experiencing. This uncertainty added to her fears: ‘It was scary as I had never really injured myself before. It was a long process to be properly diagnosed, but I knew there was something more than a cartilage tear going on.’
‘I needed to be on my feet all day for my job at the time as head cook at a care home. Before my injury, I regularly went to the gym, played netball weekly, rode my horse and walked my labrador daily. On top of that, I needed to help out on my family’s croft regularly, which is obviously physical work.’
As time went on, Anna became worried this active lifestyle might be permanently lost. ‘I was concerned that I would never be able to ride my horse or walk my dog again.’
With her knee getting more unstable, Anna booked an appointment with a private physiotherapist, after which she was referred for an MRI scan which showed a ruptured ACL and damaged cartilage.
'I was concerned I would never be able to walk my dog again'
- Anna, Medbelle patient
From diagnosis to treatment
Anna’s physiotherapist referred her to Medbelle, a ‘digital hospital’ that specialises in the efficient provision of patient-centred care. Medbelle uses technology to better join a fragmented private health system. This meant Anna’s referral to a consultant specialist knee surgeon was quick and efficient.
Dan is one of Medbelle’s Patient Care Advisers, who provide personal support throughout a patient’s entire care journey. When Anna was referred to Medbelle at the beginning of December 2021, Dan reached out to her to discuss her injury and booked her a consultation with Mr James Bidwell, consultant knee surgeon at Aberdeen Orthopaedics, later that month.
The private health sector does not have an overarching body coordinating all care, and different clinicians use different IT and admin systems. This means patients can end up doing a lot of their own admin and logistics as they’re referred between specialists. If a patient has already had a scan, this will not necessarily be sent to their consultation unless the patient organises it. This can lead to wasted consultations - a nightmare for any patient, but especially so for Anna, who lives over two hundred miles and a twelve-hour ferry journey from Aberdeen.
Fortunately, this is one of the things Medbelle helps patients with, and Patient Care Advisers can obtain scans that have been carried out by the NHS to pass them to the patient’s consultant. In the run-up to Anna’s consultation, Dan ensured that copies of her scans were uploaded to the IT system used by Mr Bidwell, ensuring the consultation was not wasted.
Before the consultation, Dan sent Anna treatment information to help her prepare questions for Mr Bidwell in advance and advised her to ask about the timeline for surgery. After the consultation, he got in touch to ask Anna how she felt the consultation went and advice on the next steps.
The consultation was productive, and Mr Bidwell informed Anna that his next surgical dates for her ACL reconstruction would be in March. In the meantime, Anna would continue with her ‘prehab’ - important physiotherapy preparation that, in conjunction with rehab afterwards, can improve the outcome of surgery.
As the day of the surgery approached, Anna not only had to think about the usual pre-operative concerns, such as Covid tests and health questionnaires but issues more specific to her island location, like the weather. She said: ‘My Mum and I had to go away five days before my operation as we were worried the wind was going to cause disruptions with the ferry.’
Fortunately, although he couldn’t control the weather, Dan was on hand to help with the rest of the pre-operative checklist, contacting the hospital to ensure they sent the relevant questionnaires.
Road to recovery
The surgery itself was a complete success, and Anna was soon back home. Since then, her recovery has gone as well as she could have hoped. She said: ‘All the rehab went according to plan with my physio. It was amazing how fast I was back walking again.
‘I’m now six months post-op and introducing running and jumping exercises again. I am now pretty much back to my normal lifestyle.’
After spending six months with a deteriorating knee thanks to a misdiagnosis, it could have been a far worse ending. Anna’s journey shows not only how important it is to receive a quick and accurate diagnosis but how much collaboration between different specialists is needed to recover from such a serious injury properly. Months of physiotherapy helped ensure the surgery could have the best possible effect - and the surgery itself requires the services of a skilled anaesthetist and other medical support staff as well as that of the consultant.
Ordinarily, these specialists have to be found by the patient if they are self-paying for surgery. They may be billed separately for different aspects of care like anaesthetics and will have no idea if the price they are paying is consistent with what similar patients are paying.
As a Medbelle patient, Anna had help with these aspects of her care. She received one price for the entire treatment, which was transparent and competitive. She still had to do all of the hard work of recovery, of course - months of exercises to get her knee back to normal. Medbelle’s Patient Care Advisers know how hard this is, so they ensure patients can give it their full attention by taking care of everything else.
As Anna said: ‘Having a Patient Care Adviser was great; Dan was really helpful and answered any questions I had. He kept in touch regularly leading up to my operation and checked in on my progress afterwards, too.’
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