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Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors have secured an admission of liability from an NHS hospital for the avoidable death of a mother in her forties.

The deceased was suffering from cardiac sarcoid, a condition which can produce symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pains and fainting. Once diagnosed by MRI scan, cardiac sarcoid can be treated. If left untreated it can result in sudden death.

The deceased had been referred to hospital by her GP after she complained of breathlessness, palpitations and chest pain and was found to have an irregular pulse. 

ECGs were carried out which showed ventricular ectopic beats (extra heartbeats) and she was referred by her local hospital consultant to a tertiary centre for an urgent specialist cardiologist’s appointment and a cardiac MRI scan.

Whilst waiting for the appointment, she continued to suffer chest pains and racing heartbeat. An ambulatory ECG was carried out which showed ventricular tachycardia (excessively fast heartbeat) -  an arrhythmia which was consistent with her reports of stabbing chest pain and tightness.

The ECG report was faxed to the tertiary centre and marked for the urgent attention of the specialist whom she was due to see. The tertiary hospital received the urgent ECG report but it was not reviewed or shown to the specialist, who was unaware of the findings of arrhythmia at the time of the clinic appointment. The specialist saw the deceased and arranged for a cardiac MRI with electrophysiological studies to follow. The MRI scan took place nearly 3 months later and revealed evidence of cardiac sarcoid.

In a patient with cardiac sarcoid, a heart arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) can lead to sudden death. If the specialist had known about the result of the ambulatory ECG, he would have arranged an urgent defibrillator implant to be carried out within a week. The device (an implantable cardio-verter defibrillator or ICD) monitors the heartbeat and shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm when the heartbeat becomes irregular.

If an ICD had been implanted urgently in accordance with proper standards of care following the ECG evidence of arrhythmia and the MRI findings of cardiac sarcoid, it would have saved her life. Without the ICD, she died suddenly a month later from her ventricular arrhythmia. She leaves two teenage children.

Boyes Turner’s specialist clinical negligence solicitors served a letter of claim on the NHS tertiary centre who subsequently admitted liability for the additional pain and suffering and the death of the deceased. We are now arranging for court proceedings to be issued to enable us to recover damages for her dependent children.