Fenland postmistress’ death caused by leaking gastric band, inquest told

AN infection caused by a leaking gastric band killed a Doddington woman just a week before Christmas, an inquest heard.

Postmistress Doreen Costall, who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 43, underwent the operation at a private hospital in Sheffield in November last year, but was admitted to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon two days after being discharged.

Her condition was so severe that doctors could not investigate or operate on the 59-year-old, of New Street, and she died on December 18.

An inquest on Wednesday was told that a post mortem revealed a leak in the line of staples that had been used to fit the gastric sleeve, which caused an infection.

Roger Ackroyd, the surgeon who fitted Mrs Costall's gastric band at the private Claremont Hospital, said it had been a standard operation with no complications.

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A leak test was conducted during the operation, and Mrs Costall's progress following the operation was good. She was discharged three days after the operation.

'There was nothing to suggest anything was wrong. I was happy for her to be discharged,' said Mr Ackroyd, who added that a leak was expected in two to three per cent of operations

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'But if you get on top of things early you can usually sort them out.

'In the vast majority of cases it becomes apparent very early. It's more unusual to have them on day four or five after the operation, as this woman has.'

Adrian Harris, a consultant surgeon who oversaw Mrs Costall's care in Hinchingbrooke, said she was 'clearly profoundly unwell' when admitted on December 4, with her condition too 'precarious' for investigative procedures to be carried out.

By December 10, her condition had stabilised and a brown fluid was found in her chest drain, indicating the possibility of a leaking from the staple line, but was still too ill for a CT scan or endoscopy.

Mr Harris said that septic infection such as Mrs Costall's was 'a slippery slope'. He added: 'It's still a category of patient that has quite a poor outcome. It's a very difficult thing to pull back from.'

Speaking at the inquest, Mrs Costall's family criticised the quality of care she had received at Claremont Hospital, but praised Hinchingbrooke's 'phenomenal' staff.

Dr Sam Bass, deputy coroner for South and West Cambridgeshire, recorded that Mrs Costall had died from a known complication of a surgical procedure.

'There doesn't seem to be anything to suggest that before she went home [from Claremont] she was anything other than well.

'She then went home and became incredibly unwell very quickly. The slippery slope is often very steep.'

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