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Infant dies from complications post glaucoma surgery

A Hong Kong infant who died in mysterious circumstances after undergoing glaucoma surgery may have suffered anesthesia-associated complications, an inquest into the death has heard.

Testifying at a coronial investigation into the 14-month-old boy’s death, Dr Ko Tak-chuen said his patient seemed to have suffered from “extremely rare” complications during congenital glaucoma surgery to reduce intraocular pressure.

The boy, who was under anesthetic at the time, was resuscitated but died two days later due to multiple organ failures, the South China Morning Post reported.

“I have never seen cardiopulmonary resuscitation performed [in eye surgery],” Ko said, adding that such incidents were essentially non-existent in medical journals.

Dr Vivan Yuen Man-ying, who was present to offer expert opinions, agreed the case was extremely rare. She suggested the patient might have suffered from a condition called anesthesia-induced rhabdomyolysis, a genetic disorder that was also raised by other doctors who testified at the inquest.

She said such patients might experience muscle damage after inhaling certain types of anesthesia. In these cases, a considerable amount of potassium would be present in the patient’s bloodstream – which affects the heart rate.

However, a post-mortem neither confirmed nor rejected Yuen’s suggestion.

The boy’s father also took to the witness box and blasted doctors at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, accusing them of proceeding with the surgery despite knowing there had been complications with the anesthetic process.

Analysing the case, Yuen said the doctors had followed procedures. Due to the rarity of the incident, she said it would be unnecessary to test for the possible condition prior to the operation.

Dr Yip Hong, the anesthesiologist for the procedure, said the boy’s heart rate might have dropped from 130 to 80 beats per minute during the surgery, however, this was due to a reflex action commonly observed when a patient’s eye muscle was being pulled.

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