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Saturday, May 28, 2011
A BREAKDOWN in communication led to an elderly woman spending three weeks in hospital before doctors discovered she had a fractured neck.
The injury sustained by Louise O’Mullane, 85, in her Turner’s Cross, Cork home last October, sparked a chain of events which led to her death, Cork City Coroner’s Court was told.
A senior medic at Cork University Hospital (CUH) admitted there had been a "communication breakdown" between the clinical and radiology specialities which meant the injury wasn’t spotted sooner.
But Dr Max Ryan, a consultant radiologist who also chairs a national quality assurance programme in diagnostic radiology, said several things have changed since the incident, and he is leading a renewed drive to further improve procedures.
The inquest heard Ms O’Mullane fell at home on October 21, 2010. Doctors ordered x-rays but no neck fracture was spotted. The inquest was told the radiologist noted he wasn’t happy with the quality of view the x-rays gave.
Ms O’Mullane remained in hospital and consultant geriatrician Dr Norma Harnedy said she complained of neck pain on October 26 and a CT scan of her neck and brain was requested. Dr Harnedy had concerns Ms O’Mullane had a neck fracture, the inquest heard. But Dr Ryan said the doctor who requested the scan did not make this clear to the radiologist and a CT scan was ruled out.
On November 8 Ms O’Mullane complained of worsening pain and an urgent CT scan was done, revealing a fracture of her second cervical vertebrae. She died of bronchial pneumonia on December 28.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said there was a link between the neck injury and the conditions which led to her death, and city coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a verdict of accidental death.
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