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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Elderly Hong Kong woman has part of her reproductive system removed after serious medical blunder

Queen Elizabeth Hospital apologises after device which was supposed to be inserted rectally was mistakenly introduced into her reproductive tract

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 10:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 8:52am

A 79-year-old patient at a Hong Kong public hospital sustained serious injuries to her reproductive organs in a medical blunder in which a medical device which was supposed to be introduced rectally was mistakenly inserted into her reproductive tract.

The woman at Queen Elizabeth Hospital had to have part of her reproductive system removed to prevent infection after the blunder, the hospital announced on Sunday.

“Our hospital apologises again to the patient and her family,” a spokesman said. “We will maintain communication with them and provide necessary assistance.”

The patient, who has heart problems, was thought to have needed a cardiac intervention and blood thinner, a hospital spokesman said.

A barium enema, in which a contrast liquid is introduced into the large intestine to facilitate an X-ray exam, was needed to confirm her intestine was fit for a procedure and required medication, he said.

During the test on July 4, a doctor injected the barium contrast for the test after a catheter was inserted. But it was found that the substance appeared in her pelvic cavity and the test was suspended immediately.

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According to existing procedures, the catheter would be first inserted into the patient by radiographers before doctors applied the contrast media.

The Post learned that the case involved two radiographers and a radiologist.

Subsequent checks found that the substance appeared in the patient’s vagina, uterus and Fallopian tubes.

An immediate surgery to wash away the substance and repair the wound was conducted, the spokesman said.

Her Fallopian tubes were also removed at the same time to prevent infection.

The patient was discharged on Tuesday, July 24.

The spokesman said the hospital was very concerned about the incident and had strengthened the procedures for such tests. It would also investigate and propose improvement measures.

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According to the family, the woman sustained two wounds measuring 3cm to 5cm to her vagina.

The problem was not detected until blood was found in her urine. The family said the hospital delayed telling them about the blunder.

Specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology George Lau Ka-kit said he was surprised by the mistake. He added that it should not have happened because there were usually no difficulties locating the vagina and anus.

“This is a serious matter,” said Tim Pang Hung-cheong, spokesman for the Patients’ Rights Association.

He said the mistake made by the medics was unacceptable and the Hospital Authority should form an independent panel to investigate the matter.

Gastroenterology specialist and medical sector lawmaker Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, who frequently performed large intestine tests, said the incident was very rare.

“The case was solely about human factors and the radiographers’ working attitude,” he said.