HSE to review foetal scan errors

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The HSE is to review all recorded cases of misdiagnosed miscarriages over the last five years as well as the cases of concerned women now coming forward.

In a statement released tonight, amid mounting criticism following revelations of several cases of early pregnancy misdiagnosis, the HSE said it had undertaken to review cases over the past five years “to determine the number patients who were recommended drug or surgical treatment when the diagnosis of miscarriage was been made in error”.

It also said all public and private obstetrics facilities would be informed that any decision to prescribe drugs or surgery for women diagnosed as having had a miscarriage must be approved by a consultant obstetrician.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, and Dr Barry White, National Director for Quality and Clinical Care, HSE, are to issue a letter to all obstetric facilities in an attempt to standardise care across a range of medical specialities.

The HSE said a clinical programme for obstetric care had been established as part of a major initiative by Dr White and that this would define standardised care for early pregnancy loss and other aspects of obstetric care.

“As part of this work, a guidance document for the management of early pregnancy loss will be developed in conjunction with the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,” the statement said.

About 150 women have so far contacted HSE helplines to express concern about misdiagnosis.

Earlier today, calls were made for the introduction of additional foetal scans for women. This followed reports this week that a number of ultrasound scans undertaken at hospitals in Louth and Galway were incorrect.

A third woman came forward today saying she had received a misdiagnosis. Gillian Dargle told RTÉ News that she was about 13 weeks pregnant when she had her first antenatal appointment at Louth County Hospital in Dundalk.

Two separate scans indicated there was no foetal heartbeat leading her to consider having a D&C procedure. However, after complaining to medical staff a third scan was undertaken during which a heartbeat was heard.

"I did doubt it (the initial result) because I still felt sick, I still felt pregnant. I know that doesn't happen in all cases, and I questioned it myself. But I'll always say now, trust your own instincts", said Ms Dargle.

Last night The Irish Times learned that a mother from the Athenry area of Co Galway was told she had miscarried when she presented for a scan to a doctor who works at Galway’s University College Hospital.

Martha O’Neill Brennan was asked if she wanted to immediately undergo a procedure to have the foetus removed. She opted to defer the D&C procedure to arrange childcare for her other children and when she returned to the hospital she asked for a further scan.

She said that after her experience she had been in correspondence with the gynaecologist, the hospital and the HSE for eight months in a bid to prevent the same thing happening to other women.

Earlier this week the family of a 13-week-old boy from north Dublin called for an independent inquiry into the HSE’s handling of a misdiagnosed miscarriage in their case.

The family in the Drogheda case have called for an independent investigation into the handling of their case by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Michael and Melissa Redmond, from Donabate in north Co Dublin, said they were “disgusted” by the HSE failure to replace scanning equipment at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital for six months after the misdiagnosis last year.

Speaking on the same programme, Dr Peter McParland, director of fetal medicine at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, said that in 99 per cent of cases the correct diagnosis is made but that in instances where the result is not clear, a second scan is usually carried out.

"As doctors and midwives we all realise that ultrasound is not infallible and indeed in general medicine there are few tests or investigations which are 100 per cent correct," he said.

In the HSE statement, Dr White said that in a number of the cases discussed in the media in recent days "the practices were unacceptable and this reinforces the need to implement standardised care across the system and to ensure compliance with this by audit and review".

The HSE is advising concerned women to contact the maternity hospital, where they received treatment and has given guidance to all maternity services in relation to dealing with calls from concerned women.

A special helpline has been established at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda after a number of women contacted the hospital yesterday. The number is 1800 200 529.

There is also a general HSE information line: 1850 241 850.

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