A man suffering a treatable series of infections throughout vital organs has died after a hospital misdiagnosed him and managed his care poorly, a coroner says.
A man suffering a treatable series of infections throughout vital organs has died after a hospital misdiagnosed him and managed his care poorly, a coroner says.

Hospital misses fatal fungal infection in lungs, brain

MERSEY Community Hospital has been slammed for the "unnecessary and avoidable" death of a man who died with an undiagnosed - but treatable - fungal infection in his lungs and brain.

Jan Axel Pettersson, 71, died in November 2017 after he was misdiagnosed with lung cancer and his care was poorly managed, Coroner Simon Cooper said in his recent findings.

A few months before his death, Mr Pettersson fell from his bicycle during a trip to Sweden - but was unable to explain why - and subsequently suffered dizzy spells.

In early October 2017, he checked in to the hospital at Latrobe with fever, some confusion and an unsteady gait.

Mersey Community Hospital has been slammed for the “unnecessary and avoidable” death. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Mersey Community Hospital has been slammed for the “unnecessary and avoidable” death. Picture: PATRICK GEE

A chest x-ray showed a mass in his right lung that staff thought was likely malignant lung cancer despite blood tests not revealing high inflammatory markers.

The mass increased in size over four days and Mr Pettersson's condition worsened with fever and headaches.

A few weeks later, scans revealed heart abnormalities and a lung lesion but Mr Pettersson was discharged to return home.

He was back at the Mersey Community Hospital just four days later after "blacking out" a number of times at home and complaining of decreased hearing and vision.

Scans of Mr Pettersson's head and brain didn't show any areas of concern, and plans were made to transfer him to Melbourne for surgery.

But the interstate trip didn't eventuate. Mr Pettersson became unresponsive on November 3 but recovered spontaneously, albeit with hypertension, confusion and headaches.

A week later, he died after going into cardiac and respiratory arrest.

It was initially believed that Mr Pettersson died from heart disease, but an autopsy and subsequent analysis showed the lung cancer diagnosis was mistaken.

In fact, he had died from a fungal infection that affected his lung, brain and meninges - the membrane covering his brain and spinal cord.

Mr Cooper said there was clear evidence of intracranial elements in his condition, but this wasn't properly investigated with an MRI or a lumbar puncture to assess his spinal fluid.

"The management of Mr Pettersson at the Mersey Community Hospital was poor. No appropriate management plan for his lung lesion was developed," he said.

"The infection which caused Mr Pettersson's death was able to have been treated - had it been diagnosed. His death was unnecessary and avoidable."

Originally published as Hospital misses fatal fungal infection in lungs, brain


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