Woman dies post-op, had taken cordyceps

A 58-YEAR-OLD woman who took cordy-ceps in the week prior to an operation to remove a benign brain tumour, but failed to inform her doctors that she had consumed the popular Chinese herbal medication which has a blood-thinning effect, died from extensive bleeding in her brain last year.

Chew Kim Kee's tumour had been successfully removed but she developed blood clots at the surgery site shortly after her operation at Singapore General Hospital. There was also diffuse bleeding from all areas affected by the surgery.

This was consistent with coagulopathy - a condition where the blood's ability to clot is impaired.

After two further operations were done to stem the bleeding, Madam Chew remained in a coma.

She died three days later on June 5.

Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay found her death to be a medical misadventure.

National University Hospital's head of neurosurgery Yeo Tseng Tsai, appointed by the Academy of Medicine of Singapore as an independent expert to assist the court, found it most likely that Madam Chew's consumption of cordyceps before her operation caused her unusual post-operative bleeding.

Quoting from Associate Professor Yeo's report, Mr Bay said: "I hope that this patient will not have died in vain and that the association between cordy-ceps ingestion and intra-operative bleeding will be disseminated widely to the Singapore population as many of the Chinese population here are taking cordyceps regularly for its purported healthy effects."

The coroner, in his findings, also said that steps should be taken to increase awareness of this "significant risk, and prevent any future incidence of uncontrolled surgical bleeding" from consuming the herb.

Madam Chew, who owned a construction company, had suffered frequent headaches for two years.

On May 18, she was unable to walk and her husband called for an ambulance.

A large brain tumour was found.

An uneventful surgery was done on June 2, led by Assoc Prof John Thomas from the National Neuroscience Institute. But shortly after, doctors found two blood clots in her brain from post-operative bleeding.

An operation was carried out immediately to remove the clots, but shortly after, the pressure in her brain rose and a new area of bleeding was found.

Another emergency operation ensued but doctors found it difficult to stop the bleeding.

It was also during this surgery that Madam Chew's husband, Li Yong Li, told her medical team that she had taken cordyceps supplements the week before.


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