Belfast Telegraph

Injuries led to widow death: Inquest

An elderly widow died just weeks after she was discharged from hospital despite X-rays showing she had suffered a hip fracture, an inquest has heard.

Mary Theresa Larkin (82) was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on January 13, 2008 after falling out of bed in her north Belfast nursing home.

Belfast Coroner’s Court heard that X-rays showed Mrs Larkin had fractured her hip, but she was sent back to the nursing home after an A&E doctor failed to spot the fracture.

By February 5 Mrs Larkin, who suffered signs of dementia, was still complaining of pain. She was readmitted to the RVH where further X-rays again revealed the fracture. She developed pneumonia and died on February 21.

The Coroner was told that when Mrs Larkin was examined on January 13 a junior doctor had referred her for X-rays. The X-rays were examined by Dr Philip Thomas, a locum A&E clinician. Dr Thomas said he “accepted there was a misdiagnosis” but no-one had told him a fracture had been seen on the X-ray.

Susan Larkham, a senior radiographer, told the inquest she had seen a fracture of the neck of the left femur and had carried out a chest X-ray, which she said was normal practice ahead of a patient requiring surgery. The court heard Ms Larkham thought the chest X-ray would have alerted doctors to the fracture.

Consultant radiologist Dr Latha Rajan examined the X-rays and filed a report noting the fracture. She did not know Mrs Larkin had been discharged.

Mrs Larkin’s daughter, Margaret McAuley, wrote a letter of complaint. The family received two letters of apology from the Belfast Trust. The court heard the RVH has since reviewed procedures.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson concluded Mrs Larkin died from pneumonia due to immobility as a result of a fractured femur.

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