Man suffers stroke after stopping pills on doctor’s advice

The patient was told to stop taking his pill medication. Picture: PA/Thinkstock
The patient was told to stop taking his pill medication. Picture: PA/Thinkstock
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A MAN suffered a stroke after being given incorrect advice about stopping his blood thinning medication.

According to the Scottish Ombudsman, the patient, named only as “Mr C”, was taking rivaroxaban, a drug that thins the blood to minimise the risk of strokes, when he was scheduled for non-emergency surgery.

The board has apologised to the patient involved

Helen Paterson

He was told to stop taking his medication seven days before his operation because of the risk of excessive bleeding during 
surgery.

But four days after coming off it, he suffered a stroke.

The ombudsman said the health board concerned – NHS Fife – and Mr C’s consultant had “appeared unclear” about whether Mr C was on rivaroxaban or warfarin.

The board said it had followed guidelines for warfarin, as rivaroxaban was a very new type of medication.

It also said Mr C was classed as a low risk of having a stroke and the advice he was given was accurate, but that in light of his complaint, it would develop further protocols for staff.

Mr C said he should not have been classified as low risk and should not have been advised to stop his medication.

The ombudsman sought independent advice from a consultant geriatrician with experience in stroke medicine.

The consultant geriatrician was clear that Mr C was given incorrect advice about stopping the pills.

Guidelines for warfarin were not applicable to rivaroxaban and Mr C should have only been told to stop his medication for 24 to 48 hours before surgery.

The adviser accepted rivaroxaban was relatively new, but stressed this meant clinicians “should be more cautious and seek guidance from colleagues”.

The consultant also found the board did have specific guidelines for this drug “and there were many more available online”.

Finally, given his medical history, Mr C should have been classified as being at a moderate risk of stroke.

For these reasons the complaint was upheld.

The ombudsman was also critical of the complaint investigation, which was unable to clarify whether Mr C’s consultant was aware of the type of medication he was taking.

NHS Fife director of nursing Helen Paterson said the health board had implemented the ombudsman’s recommendations in full in order to minimise the risk of such an incident recurring in future.

She said: “NHS Fife strives to provide the best possible experience for all of those requiring our care.

“NHS Fife treats all complaints with the utmost importance and they play an important role in informing the improvements we make to our services.

“The board has apologised to the patient involved and I welcome this opportunity to do so again.”