A 79-YEAR-OLD woman died in the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle as a result of complications that occurred during ‘essential’ heart surgery, an inquest has heard.

Jean Cowan Barbour, of Langholm, Dumfriesshire, died on February 6, 2023, while she was undergoing her third coronary angioplasty (a procedure to widen a narrowed artery), on the same blood vessel. 

A statement submitted to Cockermouth Coroner’s Court by Dr Roger Moore, a consultant cardiologist, stated that Mrs Barbour underwent the first surgery on her intermediate coronary artery in 2020 after presenting with high blood pressure and a narrowing of arteries supplying the bowel. 

A stent was inserted to widen the artery, but in September 2023 she suffered from further heart symptoms, and investigations showed that the artery had narrowed again, and a further stenting procedure was performed.

Mrs Barbour was admitted to hospital again in October and December 2023 with chest pains, suspected to be caused by mild heart attacks.

Dr Moore said that records showed that her condition then stabilised with medical treatment rather than further surgery.

Dr Moore first met Mrs Barbour on February 6, a week after she was admitted to hospital again, and prior to the procedure he was about to perform, and warned her of the two per cent risk of serious complications the procedure presented. 

Assistant Coroner for Cumbria, Dr Nicholas Shaw, commented: “The benefit (of the procedure) was stabilising her condition and preventing future heart attacks. The alternative treatment was medical care, but this had been attempted and had resulted in repeated hospital admissions."

Tragically, Mrs Barbour suffered a cardiac puncture during the operation, and she suffered a cardiac arrest, with blood entering her pericardium (the double-layered sac that contains the heart).

Despite the doctors’ best efforts to resuscitate here, Mrs Barbour was pronounced dead at 5.13pm.

Mrs Barbour’s husband William, said that she had been an ‘amazing support’ to him right until the day she was hospitalised.

He told how she was educated at St Gabriel’s in Carlisle and studied dress design and manufacture at Carlisle College of Art, before working in the fashion department at Bullough’s in Carlisle. The couple had a son, Robert, born in 1970.

He said: “I am totally distraught and never before have I experienced such grief.” 

Dr Shaw acknowledged the difficult and complex role of surgeons in these cases. 

He said: “I think this would classify as an essential procedure.  

“Let’s not forget, I appreciate the family are devastated by this, but it's severely stressful for a doctor to have a patient dying on them due to a complication of something they are doing to try to make their patient better. 

“One must acknowledge that (and would ask), how could you go back to the frontline and do it again the next day? But I think perhaps like a soldier in battle it’s something you’ve got to do. 

“You’ve got to pick yourself up and get on and do an angioplasty on the next patient who comes needing it.”

Dr Shaw concluded that Jean died due to complications arising from an essential medical procedure, with a medical cause of death of cardiac tamponade (fluid accumulating in the pericardium), caused by a ruptured artery during a coronary angioplasty, with a further cause of ischaemic heart disease.