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Crash victim died after X-ray didn't show 18 fractures

The failure of medical staff to probe the extent of injuries sustained by a grandmother who died at home four days after sustaining 18 fractures was unfortunate, a coroner has said.

Enniskillen pensioner Elizabeth McTeggart (71) was discharged from Fermanagh’s Erne Hospital nearly three hours after she sustained 17 rib fractures and a fracture of the sternum in a traffic collision on April 20, 2009.

Mrs McTeggart (below), from Cappog Road, died shortly before 1.45am on April 24, 2009.

A post-mortem examination revealed her death was caused by fractures of the ribs and sternum, which affected breathing.

However, Coroner Brian Sherrard told her inquest yesterday that her fractures were not detectable on the X-ray taken in Erne Hospital.

He added it was not possible to say if further efforts by staff to determine the extent of her injuries would have prevented death.

He told the inquest: “I have concluded that Mrs McTeggart died from flail chest due to fractures of the ribs and sternum.

“Seventeen rib fractures and a fracture of the sternum were found at post-mortem.

“I am satisfied that these were sustained in the road traffic collision on Monday April 20, 2009.

“I am also satisfied that these fractures were not detectable on the X-ray taken in Erne Hospital on the day of the collision.”

Flail chest is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when a segment of the rib cage breaks and becomes detached from the rest of the chest wall.

Three other vehicles were involved in the collision on Enniskillen’s Sligo Road.

Mrs McTeggart was taken to the Erne Hospital following the collision. She was sent for a chest X-ray after complaining of pain.

No rib fractures were noted, the inquest heard. She was discharged home around 6pm.

While the 71-year-old appeared to be making progress, she died at around 1.45am on April 24, 2009.

Mr Sherrard added: “With the benefit of hindsight it is unfortunate, given Mrs McTeggart’s medical history and the complaints she made regarding her symptoms, that further efforts were not made to ascertain the true extent of her injuries, although it is not possible to say whether this would have changed the sad outcome.”

Background

Elizabeth McTeggart sustained 17 rib fractures and a fracture of the sternum in the collision.

Yesterday, Coroner Brian Sherrard told the inquest that he was satisfied her injuries were sustained in the collision.

But he said her fractures were not detectable on the X-ray taken in Erne Hospital.

Belfast Telegraph