Pensioner died after medics missed spleen injury

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DOCTORS failed to spot a ruptured spleen which led to a man’s death, an inquest heard.

Bruce Alexander Wardrop, of Rose Crescent, Whitburn, was taken to the A&E department at South Tyneside District Hospital after falling down the stairs.

The 68-year-old was suffering from shortness of breath and low blood pressure, and doctors carried out tests to diagnose his condition.

But unknown to them, Mr Wardrop had fractured seven ribs and suffered a ruptured spleen which led to an intra-abdominal haemorrhage.

He died in the hospital’s resuscitation room at 11.46pm on February 1, 2013.

The severity of his injuries and the fact his spleen was ruptured was not discovered until a post-mortem examination.

An inquest at South Tyneside heard that Mr Wardrop’s wife Brenda found him at the bottom of the stairs at 9pm.

Paramedics took him to hospital where a chest X-ray revealed three rib fractures. At one point, Mr Wardrop pulled his cannula – which was being used to give him fluids – out and while a doctor was trying to reinsert it, he collapsed.

Doctors attempted to resuscitate him, but he had suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said her post-mortem exam found that Mr Wardrop had actually broken seven ribs, in a straight line on his left side, above the spleen, and that each break and the rupture would have been caused by the same impact.

The spleen was torn in three places, with one of the lacerations almost the entire length of the organ.

His abdomen was filled with blood from the ruptured spleen and the injuries could not have been caused by CPR.

Coroner Trevor Carney said: “Had this man fallen on the stairs, gone up to bed, and been found dead the following day, accidental death would have been my finding.

“But the fact of the matter is that this man was taken to the hospital. My finding is that this man died as a consequence of an undiagnosed condition, which if diagnosed could have given rise to treatment which may have led to a different outcome.”

Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s executive director of personnel and development, said: “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr Wardrop.

“His was a complex case involving a very uncommon condition and some unusual features, which made diagnosis particularly difficult, but we accept the coroner’s findings and will use them to inform our future practice.”