Man died after routine procedure to check his airways

Pathologists unable to determine cause of death of Patrick Dennison, inquest hears

Patrick Dennison (57), from Artane in Dublin, collapsed and died on August 22nd, 2016. Earlier that morning, he’d had a bronchoscopy at Beaumont Hospital. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Patrick Dennison (57), from Artane in Dublin, collapsed and died on August 22nd, 2016. Earlier that morning, he’d had a bronchoscopy at Beaumont Hospital. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Pathology staff were unable to determine why a man died just hours after a routine bronchoscopy at a Dublin hospital, the Dublin Coroner’s Court has heard.

Patrick Dennison (57) from Artane in Dublin 5 collapsed and died on August 22nd, 2016. Earlier that morning, he’d been to Beaumont Hospital for the procedure to check his airways, which doctors described as uneventful.

Family members said the man was in pain following the bronchoscopy, during which a flexible camera is inserted down through the vocal chords and into the airways.

Mr Dennison, who had a smoking background, had a nodule on one of his lungs and had been called in for a number of tests to determine if it was cancerous.

Consultant respiratory physician at Beaumont Hospital, Mr Ross Morgan, said bronchoscopy is a routine test, around six procedures per day are conducted at Beaumont Hospital, between 1,200 and 1,500 annually.

Medication is administered to prevent discomfort and patients are observed for a number of hours following the procedure, which takes around ten minutes. The process for Mr Dennison that day was uneventful, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

No risk factors

Mr Morgan said Mr Dennison had no risk factors that would make the bronchoscopy more dangerous.

“He was not a higher risk,” Mr Morgan said, adding he had never experienced a death in these circumstances during his 11-year career.

“It was very unexpected,” Mr Morgan said. “He appeared to have no complications from the procedure itself.”

The sedatives used are short-acting and wear off after around 45 minutes, the court heard. Mr Dennison was given something to eat and drink before he left the hospital around midday. He collapsed later that day and returned to the emergency department where medics tried to resuscitate him for an hour in a bid to save his life.

Pathology staff found no reason for the man’s sudden collapse. There was no anatomical cause identified and nothing in toxicology reports that could account for the man’s death. Sedative medication was present in sub-therapeutic levels in keeping with doses administered in hospital earlier that day. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane was told that cases where the cause of death is undetermined account for between 2 and 3 per cent of autopsies.

Dr Cullinane returned an open verdict.

“All efforts were made by the pathologists to see if they could explain what caused the sudden collapse, but the cause of death was undetermined,” she said.

“Unfortunately it’s very difficult for the family in this situation. This was a rare and tragic death.”