Heart attack drug causes fatal stroke in elderly man

A COMMON drug used to treat heart attacks caused a fatal stroke in an elderly man.

James Dorgan, 72, from Raheen, Co Cork, died in the city’s South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital on December 6, 2006, after a thrombolytic, or blood thinning agent, caused the stroke, Cork Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

Mr Dorgan presented at Cork University Hospital (CUH) at about 3.50pm on December 5 complaining of chest pains.

Doctors diagnosed a massive heart attack and administered two doses of the common thrombolytic agent to break up a coronary artery clot that was causing the attack.

Dr Izat, the senior doctor who treated him, said he discussed with Mr Dorgan and his family the fact the drug carries a 1% risk of causing a stroke.

He said Mr Dorgan showed no contra indications that would have prevented the treatment.

But it emerged during the inquest Mr Dorgan had a CT scan in 2002 which showed a cyst in his brain.

Dr Izat said if he had been made aware of this at the time of the heart attack he would have been more careful in administering thinning agents. The drug was given at 4.05pm and at 4.35pm and Mr Dorgan complained of nausea and headaches afterwards.

He was transferred to the intensive care unit as a matter of routine but his condition deteriorated.

He was transferred to the South Infirmary for a brain scan that evening.

However, the hospital’s five-year-old CT scanner broke down as Mr Dorgan was about to have the scan.

However, Dr Simon Blake said this would have made little change to the outcome.

Mr Dorgan died the following morning. A post mortem revealed he had two underlying and previously undetected brain diseases that could have caused a stroke at anytime.

But assistant State pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, said the thrombolytic agent caused the stroke at that time.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a verdict of death due to medical misadventure.

Mr Dorgan’s family also criticised the fact they were made aware by letter on the night of his removal that his brain had been removed for the post mortem.

However, Dr Cullinane said while this was very difficult for the family to accept, it was necessary to establish the cause of death.

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