Investigation launched into hospital spinal surgery incidents

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

An investigation into spinal surgery outcomes in Dublin’s Temple Street children’s hospital was launched after two serious postoperative surgical incidents were reported, last year.

Towards the end of 2022, staff members made senior management at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) aware of their concerns regarding spinal operations on children with spina bifida and Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) launched an internal review.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) also arranged an external review to focus on one surgeon, based at CHI Temple Street.

The individual consultant under external review is not suspended but has opted to pause surgeries until the results of the review are published.

Complex patients are being transferred to other surgeons in CHI. However, some children may be moved to other countries for treatment.

The executive has stated that the review was prompted by the use of certain spinal technique and unauthorised implantable devices, in addition to concerns about poor surgical outcomes in spinal surgery at the children’s hospital.

A birth defect where part of the spinal column fails to fully form, the impact of spina bifida can vary from muscle weakness to neurological complications.

An estimated one in 1,000 children are born with spina bifida in Ireland and 500 children are living with it. This means that Ireland has one of the highest rates of the condition in the world.

In 2022, the minister for health allocated €19m for orthopaedic surgery in children. Last year, the level of spinal surgeries in Temple Street grew to 124, up from 93 in 2017.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the mother of a 14-year-old boy who has been waiting for scoliosis surgery for many years expressed her anger upon hearing about the reviews.

“He’s on a very difficult road and a bad road and we don’t want to think about what could be the outcome if he is left too much longer,” said Megan Murphy.

“With everything that has come out, I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to trust my child in the hands of CHI again after what’s been released over the weekend.”

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