The Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquest Report




As noted above this case gives rise to the following questions:

  • Was Alyssa's family provided with sufficient information to allow them to give informed consent to the procedure?
  • Was Alyssa healthy enough to undergo an operation?
  • Were there technical problems with the operation?
  • Was the PICU adequately equipped for her case?
  • What was the cause of death and was it preventable?


Was Alyssa's family provided with sufficient information
to allow them to give informed consent to the procedure?

It is clear from the testimony provided to this Inquest that Alyssa's family had not been told about the recent deaths in the program. Based on the evidence, it would also seem that they would not have been told about the state of dysfunction of the operative team and the inexperience of the surgeon. In fact, there is some suggestion that information was passed to Alyssa's mother as to Odim's status within the profession that would not have been accurate.


It is reasonable to conclude that in the circumstances of this case, a patient or parent was entitled to know the true state of affairs of the program and that the team was not enjoying good results. The evidence tends to suggest that Alyssa's family was not provided with sufficient information to allow them to give informed consent to the procedure.


Was Alyssa healthy enough to undergo an operation?


The evidence presented to the Inquest raised questions about the decision to take Alyssa to surgery in light of a possible infection. However, the consulting witnesses in their testimony deferred to the decision that was made by Giddins, Odim and Wong. It is difficult to conclude, therefore, that their decision was an incorrect one.


Was the PICU adequately equipped for her case?


The events in PICU-including the need to call Youngson at 0400 hours-indicate that Odim had not yet ensured that the Unit was able to handle his patients postoperatively. These problems persisted, despite the efforts of the PICU staff to have the Unit properly equipped. Comments made by both Kiesman and Kesselman in testimony also raise questions about Odim's approach to his colleagues.


Were there technical problems with the operation?


The evidence suggests that Alyssa's coronary sinus was sutured closed, that there may not have been sufficient myocardial protection and that there was not sufficient relief of Alyssa's pulmonary stenosis.


What was the cause of death and was it preventable?

If Alyssa did not have an infection, there are unanswered questions about her death. While Odim indicated that her death was due to a vasovagal incident stimulated by suctioning, witnesses to this Inquest indicated that such a problem should have responded to pacing, which it did not. This leads one to question whether Alyssa's heart had been weakened during surgery or if the repair was not adequate. In his report Cornel also noted that there might have been inadequate relief of the pulmonary valve stenosis.

The questions that were raised about the lack of relief of the pulmonary valve, the suturing of the coronary sinus, and the presence of widespread edema, myocardial necrosis, and brain damage all suggest that it was during the course of surgery that Alyssa's heart was compromised to the point that it could not respond to pacing. Witnesses have also raised important questions as to whether or not there was sufficient myocardial protection during surgery.

Unfortunately, the records do not provide an explicit answer to this question. However, the damage done to Alyssa's heart suggests that protection was not adequate. In his report Dr. Walter Duncan commented that the three hour and seven minute pump time was lengthy. As noted elsewhere in this report, lengthy pump times led to an increase in post-operative problems.

Finally there is the failure of the pacing wires to assist the child to recover from the bradycardia that developed following the coughing spell. The wires should have worked, but either they were improperly placed or the heart was so compromised as not to be able to respond appropriately.


The evidence, therefore, suggests that the child died from compromise to the functioning of the heart brought about by a complicated and lengthy operation, and an inability of the heart to respond to pacing. Again, it is difficult to come to a definitive statement about whether or not this death was preventable. However, the lengthy bypass time, the possibly inadequate myocardial protection and the suturing of the coronary sinus suggest that this death might have been preventable.



Current Home - Table of Contents - Chapter 6 - Findings
Next Borton asks for a transfer
Previous Cause of death
Section 1 Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Issues
  Chapter 2 - Pediatric Cardiac Issues
  Chapter 3 - The Diagnosis of Pediatric Heart Defects and their Surgical Treatment
  Chapter 4 - The Health Sciences Centre
Section 2 Chapter 5 - Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Winnipeg 1950-1993
  Chapter 6 - The Restart of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in 1994
January 1, 1994 to May 17, 1994
  Chapter 7 - The Slowdown
May 17 to September 1994
  Chapter 8 - Events Leading to the Suspension of the Program
September 7, 1994 to December 23, 1994
  Chapter 9 - 1995 - The Aftermath of the Shutdown
January to March, 1995
Section 3 Chapter 10 - Findings and Recommendations
Appendix 1 - Glossary of terms used in this report
Appendix 2 - Parties to the Proceedings and counsel
Appendix 3 - List of witnesses and dates of testimony
Search the Report
Table of Contents