Diagnosis would not have saved Sheffield boy, 6

Sheffield Children's Hospital
Sheffield Children's Hospital
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A six-year-old boy who died of a heart condition could probably not have been saved even if his condition had been diagnosed earlier, a coroner ruled.

George Cooke, from Norton,Sheffield, was admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital on September 23 last year when he began struggling to breathe.

The youngster had survived being born prematurely at 25 weeks and suffered from cerebral palsy.

He was diagnosed with a lower respiratory tract infection and given medication for pneumonia ‘as well as treatment with nebuliser sprays, in accordance with the Trust’s guidance for asthma’ but his condition worsened and he died in the early hours of the next morning.

A post-mortem revealed he had myocarditis, a dangerous inflammation of the heart muscle, which was likely to have been brought on by a lung infection.

But the myocarditis had not been picked up by doctors during George’s final hours, when he was diagnosed with pneumonia before being transferred to intensive care when his condition deteriorated.

Dr Usha Niranjan, a specialist registrar at the hospital who treated George shortly before he died, told the inquest she believed the child ‘did not have any sign of heart failure’.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Louise Slater said it was ‘unlikely’ an earlier diagnosis of myocarditis that day would have made a difference.

She added that the treatment ‘was appropriate’. She said: “On the independent evidence of Dr Gandhi, consultant paediatrician with expertise in cardiology, I find that George’s attendance and subsequent management was appropriate in the circumstances.”

Recording a narrative conclusion, she added: “It is clear from the evidence that George was consistently treated for a respiratory illness and a diagnosis of myocarditis was not considered.

“However, on the balance of probability is it unlikely that had a diagnosis of myocarditis been made earlier it would have changed the final outcome.”

Addressing the family, the coroner added: “There is nothing I can say to bring back George. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I have a six-year-old boy myself so I can only sympathise with your situation.

“I am sure every day he would have brought his personality and smile to you and I sincerely hope you remember those days and not the minute detail of George’s last 24 hours.”