MRSA link to hospital death - inquest

A FATHER desperate for answers about his son's death weeks after the teenager contracted hospital superbug MRSA has called for an independent inquiry into the case.

A FATHER desperate for answers about his son's death weeks after the teenager contracted hospital superbug MRSA has called for an independent inquiry into the case.

Seventeen-year-old Alex Ogden, from Rougham, died after developing acute respiratory distress syndrome - a devastating lung condition - following surgery on his spine.

But an inquest into his death yesterday heard how the teenager had contracted MRSA while recuperating in intensive care. The hearing returned a "medical misadventure" verdict.

Now his family's search for the truth looks set to continue as the hospital where he died confirmed it was considering bringing in an independent consultant to review the case.

The Huntingdon inquest heard the youngster contracted MRSA while in intensive care - but stressed it was unclear whether this contributed to his death.

After the case, Alex's father, Colonel Ian Ogden, declined to comment on South and West Cambridgeshire Coroner David Morris's verdict, but called for an independent review.

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The option is now being discussed by bosses at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, where Alex's operation took place.

The teenager, whose spinal problems developed over three years, underwent the surgery in June of last year.

The operation took place just weeks after Alex completed his AS level exams at Culford School. He had won the school's Pilkington Cup, given for courage under adversity, and was hoping for a career in business when he finished his schooling.

Although the inquest was told the operation had seemed successful, it was when Alex was recuperating in intensive care that problems began.

As his condition slowly deteriorated, Alex caught an infection and then staff noticed discharge from his nose where a tube had been put in to help him breathe.

Subsequent tests found that the discharge had traces of antibiotic resistant bacterial infection MRSA - but the inquest was unable to determine whether this led to the youngster's death on July 27 last year.

Speaking of the days following Alex's operation, Dr Anthony Brooks, of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, told the inquest: "At that stage, we didn't have a firm idea of what was going on. A couple of days later we noticed a discharge from his nostril and that was the first time we realised there was a MRSA problem.

"During the evening of the operation, there was no reason to suppose this young man's care had for any reason gone awry.

"We tended to think maybe MRSA was the cause of the problem but with hindsight, the timing seems wrong."

Mr Ogden claimed during the inquest that other patients in the ward had MRSA and were not sufficiently isolated but hospital staff were unable to confirm or deny this.

But Dr Brooks added: "I don't have any concerns about the cleanliness or similar problems at Hinchingbrooke.

"We have had considerable surveillance of MRSA for some time at the hospital and we are much better than the majority of hospitals in the region."

Consultant pathologist Dr Michael Harris told the inquest Alex went through a "spiral of deterioration" after the operation.

After conducting the post mortem, Dr Harris said the medical cause of death was acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia as a result of septicaemia.

Dr Harris said there was no evidence of anything being performed incorrectly during the surgery or at the anaesthetic stage.

He said: "The question of how and when the MRSA actually came into the picture and where the infection came from is perhaps a matter of further inquiry."

In giving a verdict of medical misadventure, Mr Morris said: "It has not been possible to identify the origin of the septicaemia but I am not willing to conclude whether MRSA caused the untimely death of young Alex."

After the hearing a spokesman for the hospital said the unit was considering the possibility of an independent review.

He added: "We would like to express our condolences to the family. We appreciate it has been a very difficult and distressing time for them."

MRSA factfile

n MRSA is short for Multiple Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Staphylococcus Aureus is found on many individuals' skin and seems to cause no major problems. However, if it gets inside the body, for instance under the skin or into the lungs, it can cause infection.

n Almost half MRSA infections are resistant to normal antibiotics and it has become the most common cause of death involving hospital-acquired infections.

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