Teenager 'devastated' after fallopian tube removal

9:22 am on 2 May 2017

A 19-year-old says she wanted her fallopian tube returned to her after surgery because she believed it contained her unborn baby.

The Health and Disability Commissioner said the senior sonographer should have ensured the scan was correctly interpreted, or conveyed doubt.

The Health and Disability Commissioner said the senior sonographer should either have ensured the scan was correctly interpreted or conveyed doubt. Photo: 123RF

She told the Health and Disability Commissioner, Anthony Hill: "I was devastated and all I wanted to do was take it home but because I did not tick, sign, [or] left that part of the form empty, I got attitude from the nurses and was spoken to rudely.

"I feel like because I was young ... that they cared less about my situation and how I was feeling," she added.

In a report today, Mr Hill upheld a complaint by the unnamed young woman, saying the Waitematā District Health Board should have provided more information to her about tissue return in 2015 when she was in a public hospital in the district.

The young Māori woman, who was pregnant, had abdominal pain and was referred for a scan by her GP .

A trainee sonographer at a private clinic believed she had detected a fetal heartbeat on an ultrasound scan, and referred this to a supervising sonographer. This person, known only as Ms B, wasn't convinced but accepted the diagnosis without raising any doubt.

Mr Hill told RNZ this was a fundamental mistake.

"The price was an incorrect report that was unqualified, clearly finding an ectopic pregnancy, went through to a radiographer and then through to the hospital."

He said Ms B should have taken over the care herself at this point, reassessing the patient and conveying her doubt to hospital specialists.

Instead, the tube was removed and it was discovered soon afterwards that the pregnancy was a normal, intrauterine one.

The young woman had a healthy baby, but was upset that the tube that had been removed was not returned to her initially.

"Even though I did not lose my baby in the end, I lost a piece of [my] body and my spirit. I could not talk to my family or friends about it for weeks, especially in that week in between the surgery and the blood tests because I would break down."

Mr Hill said on the basis of the information available to DHB staff at the time, "it was reasonable to carry out surgery to remove Ms A's right fallopian tube".

"While, in hindsight, it would have been beneficial if an additional ultrasound had been carried out at the public hospital prior to surgery, or the images of the community ultrasound reviewed, I consider that it was reasonable in the circumstances for the obstetric/gynaecology team not to have done so."

But he faulted the DHB over delays in returning the fallopian tube tissue.

He said the DHB breached patient rights by failing to act correctly over the requirement to discuss tissue return with Ms A, to give her adequate information about the process, and to do so in a timely way.

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