Open verdict after woman dies following gastric band operation

AN open verdict was recorded yesterday by a coroner into the death of a 61-year-old woman who developed septicaemia after having a gastric band operation in Britain.

Louth County Coroner Ronan Maguire was told by the surgeon who carried out the key-hole procedure that it carries a 1 in 2,000 risk of death.

Catherine ‘Violet’ Donaghy, a retired nurse, had travelled to Britain to have the surgery with her daughter Orla O’Brien, who is also a nurse and who also had a gastric band inserted on the same day — March 10 this year.

Twelve days later she was found dead in the home she shared with Orla in Bellingham Green, Castlebellingham, Co Louth.

Dundalk Coroners Court heard that on the evening of March 22, she had gone upstairs to lie down after watching Emmerdale as she felt unwell.

She was an insulin-dependent diabetic and her blood sugar levels had been rising in the days before her death and, the inquest heard, she had been unable to swallow her medication for it since the operation.

Orla left to briefly visit her brother at 7.30pm and when she returned at around 8.45pm she called out to her mother, boiled the kettle and brought her up a cup of tea. She found her sitting in the en-suite with her head against the wall.

She began CPR and called for an ambulance. She continued CPR until the paramedics arrived and they spent some 40 minutes trying to revive her mother. She was pronounced dead in the bedroom by an on-call doctor a short time later.

Pathologist, Dr Tunde Adegbola, said her abdomen was very distended and there was discolouration around one of the incisions. When he examined it more closely he found pus around a rubber tube. The pus was also around the stomach and the band.

Consultant bariatric surgeon, Dr Audun Sigurdsson, who carried out the keyhole procedure said: “There is a 1 in 2,000 risk of death.”

He added infections are rare and most happen in the first weeks after the operation.

The Coroner found Mrs Donaghy died from septicaemia due to infection at the site of the gastric band device. On the balance of probability it spread from the wound site down into the device, he believed. He returned an open verdict and extended his sympathies to the family.

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