Hong Kong hospital launches probe into patient’s death after bubbles were found in oxygen machine

Man, 44, visited emergency unit after suffering heart attack; machine was replaced, but patient died after second cardiac arrest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 9:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 9:38am

Queen Elizabeth Hospital has launched a probe into an incident involving a patient who died after using an oxygen-supplying machine in which gas bubbles were found.

The 44-year-old man visited the hospital’s emergency unit for chest pain on Friday night and was diagnosed with heart failure due to heart attack. Inotropic agents were administered, according to a hospital spokesman.

At about 4am on Saturday, he was transferred to the cardiac care unit in critical condition. He was resuscitated, then underwent a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedure, a non-surgical procedure to open up arteries.

During the procedure, he was connected to a peripheral veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or VA-ECMO machine, to supply oxygen to his blood circulation system.

The PCI was completed. He was then transferred to the intensive care unit.

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An hour later, medical staff detected low blood flow in the VA-ECMO system, and gas bubbles were also detected emerging in the tube containing the blood coming from the patient to the machine.

The staff immediately clamped the tube to prevent the bubbles from flowing back to the patient. All tubes were checked and no cracks were found.

He was connected a second VA-ECMO machine, but continued to have low blood pressure and had another cardiac arrest. The patient died in the afternoon on the same day.

An investigation panel will be set up for a probe, the spokesman said.

“As a prudent measure, the hospital checked all VA-ECMO machines of the same model after the incident, and no defects have been detected so far,” the spokesman added.

The case has been referred to the coroner for follow-up.

The hospital will provide assistance to the patient’s family.