A GRANDMOTHER died as her chest filled with blood days after surgeons fitted a pacemaker.

Brenda Cullinane, who was 71, visited the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in May last year after worsening heart problems.

It was decided that she should be given a pacemaker, and consultant cardiology Dr Christopher John Boos fitted the device in an incident-free surgery.

However, on June 3, Mrs Cullinane became ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, and suffered with pains in her stomach and lower back. Her daughter Jane McNair, with whom she was staying, called the hospital to be told that a doctor was not available.

A call was also made to the NHS 111 number, and it was advised that a GP was called. The following day, Dr Timothy Knight of Cornerways Medical Centre in Ringwood visited the house, and prescribed possible gastroenteritis. He failed to write up the notes from the consultation, and the original copies were destroyed, but he told the court that he could recall no cause for concern.

But that night, Mrs Cullinane’s condition worsened, and she collapsed in the bathroom.

At an inquest into her death, Mrs McNair said her mother became “unbalanced and disorientated”. During a 999 call, Mrs McNair pleaded with operators to help, adding “I'm losing her”.

She said: “Mum was dying in front of me and took her last breaths before the ambulance arrived.”

Dr Will Chong, who completed a post-mortem examination, recorded the cause of death was the result of a wire from the pacemaker piercing the wall of her heart. However, during the inquest, he said there was no evidence of a puncture in the heart or the pericardium – a sac surrounding the muscle – that would account for the blood in the pleural cavity around the lungs.

Dr Boos said that if the wall of the heart had been pierced by a wire the problem would have been picked up by an X-ray the day after the operation.

He said: “I cannot in my heart of hearts and with my scientific brain explain how this came to happen”, but added: “A sudden and catastrophic event must have happened”. He also acknowledged that even a tiny hole could allow blood to pass through.

The verdict

Senior coroner for Dorset Sheriff Payne recorded a narrative verdict.

He said: “The cause of death I am going to give is 1a) haemorrhage into the plura due to 1b) ischemic heart disease and part 2) pacemaker insertion.”

He added: “The best I can say is that there was no direct cause of death arising from the procedure.”