Baby’s liver disease not picked up
A Porirua baby might have lived if his liver disease had been picked up in the first couple of weeks of his life.
But doctors failed to raise the alarm until he was 12 weeks old, by which time his disease was aggressive and advanced, the Coroner’s Court heard last week.
The baby boy, whose name was suppressed by coroner Deborah Marshall, died in March 2013 aged 5 months after a failed liver transplant. He had biliary atresia, a rare liver disease affecting six to eight New Zealand babies annually.
The baby’s symptoms, jaundice and frothy yellow-green poo, were noted by his midwife and mentioned by his mother at GP consultations when he was 6 and 8 weeks old, but no blood test was ordered.
Plimmerton Medical Centre GP Brian Wesley-Smith said he recommended a blood test to the baby’s mother. She denied this.
Very few GPs would ever come across biliary atresia and it was no surprise Wesley-Smith had never heard of it, said Starship Hospital paediatric hepatologist Stephen Mouat, who cared for the boy from his arrival at Starship on January 2, 2013. Still, the baby’s liver should have felt odd at 8 weeks, he said.
If the baby’s jaundice had raised flags at 2 weeks old, a bypass operation could have been done, delaying a full liver transplant till he was older and more robust, Mouat said. The coroner reserved her decision.