A Migraine attack won't technically kill you, but being misdiagnosed with one may. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened to 40-year-old Dr. Niamh Long of Endsleigh, Ireland. Dr. Long was a well respected general practitioner, wife and mother of three who died on January 11, 2011, due to complications from emergency surgery to repair a brain aneurysm, not from a Migraine.
Dr. Long arrived at Cork University Hospital (CUH) by ambulance on January 6, 2011, complaining of severe head pain. The emergency department doctor, Dr. Gergely Halasz, examined Dr. Long but didn't feel her symptoms suggested that a CT scan needed to be performed. The hours she spent in the emergency department proved to be useless, just as the incorrect diagnosis of Migraine was. The next day, Dr. Long did not feel any better; in fact she was suffering from more head pain, nausea, and neck pain, was sensitive to light (photophobia) and at times seemed confused. At one point she lost consciousness and experienced urinary incontinence. When her own general practitioner, Dr. O'Keeffe, discovered she was not feeling any better, but rather worse, he became very concerned. He contacted a professor at CUH, and Dr. Long was immediately taken back and readmitted to the hospital. At this point, albeit too late, a CT scan was performed and showed the devastating aneurysm she had on her left carotid artery.
There are a few different types of aneurysms and various ways to treat them, but unfortunately for Dr. Long and the doctors and staff at CUH, she had a blood blister aneurysm. This type of aneurysm isn't very common and is extremely difficult to treat. According to Dr. Noel Fanning, a consultant radiologist at CUH, the aneurysm could have been treated one of two ways: by using a coiling method or trying to clip off the now bleeding aneurysm. Dr. Charles Marks was called in to see Dr. Long, and he decided that due to the location and size of it he would attempt to "clip" the aneurysm.
Dr. Marks, a neurosurgeon, soon realized he had some serious decisions to make for this patient. You see, Dr. Long was not just any patient; she was a former intern for him and also worked at CUH. Tragically, the choice he made was the wrong one. While Dr. Marks tried for over 90 minutes to fix the ruptured aneurysm, but each time the clip slipped off when blood started pumping through the artery. He had no other choice at this point but to clip the entire carotid artery. Dr. Long died on January 11, 2011.
In addition to Dr. Marks admitting he made the wrong surgical choice for Dr. Long's condition at a recent inquest, Dr. Halasz also admitted that his diagnosis of Migraine or cluster headache was incorrect. The outcome of the inquest was "death by medical misadventure" which basically means death by accident during a medical procedure. Dr. Long's young life was taken by misdiagnosis and medical misadventure. Her organs have given others a new lease on life; a person on dialysis has received a new kidney and a lucky person has a new liver.
If you have the "worst" head pain of your life, or you experience new and/or different symptoms, please get to doctor or emergency/urgent care room immediately. It may make all the difference.
Riegel, Ralph. "Doctor who misdiagnosed haemorrhage in mum of three as migraine is still working in cork hospital." Independent ie. September 27, 2011.
The IrishTimes.Com. September 28, 2011.
"Medical misadventure verdict in Cork inquest." RTE News /Ireland. September 27, 2011.
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© HealthCentral Network, 2011.
Last updated October 5, 2011.
Published On: October 05, 2011