HONG KONG - A chief of hospitals has apologised for a medical blunder in which a transplant patient was left fighting for her life after being given a heart that did not match her blood type.
The rare mistake was discovered halfway through the emergency operation at a premier public hospital when a nurse, who was not in the operating theatre, realised that the donor's AB blood type was not compatible with the recipient's type A one.
This meant it could result in a fatal rejection, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
The blunder at Queen Mary Hospital on Tuesday was "a result of human errors", Hong Kong's west cluster chief executive, Dr Luk Che Chung, said on Wednesday, as he apologised to the patient and the families involved.
"We will set up an independent committee to find those who are responsible," he said, adding that a report is due in two months.
The 58-year-old patient was in stable condition under intensive care on Wednesday night but might develop a serious rejection at a later stage and require another transplant, Dr Luk said.
At least two senior doctors failed to identify the mismatch of the blood type before the operation.
They said they were confused by the fact that the heart of an A blood-type donor can be donated to a patient of AB type, but not the other way around.
Dr Katherine Fan, head of cardiac services at Grantham Hospital where the woman was being treated for end-stage heart failure, said that when a heart became available, "we were very eager to use it".
"After we received the donor's heart of AB blood group, I checked if there was any patient of AB blood type who was in urgent need of a heart before considering whether any other patient was in need of the same," Dr Fan was quoted by another Hong Kong newspaper, The Standard, as saying.
The surgeon in charge of the transplant operation at Queen Mary Hospital, Dr Timmy Au, said he had read aloud the blood types of the donor and the recipient to double check.
"But for some unknown reason... I did not realise that the blood type would be a mismatch," Dr Au said.
When the call about the mistake came, "the patient's heart had already been taken out, and I was in the process of fixing in the new heart", he said.
Dr Fan said the patient might not have lived for more than a week without a transplant.
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