A FATHER died from an infection after undergoing heart surgery, a coroner has found.

Mark Nielsen said his 72-year-old father Anthony had been 'fit and healthy' before he went into the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in December 2010.

“But after he was discharged, he never recovered,” he said.

“I don’t know where we go from here.”

His father had to have emergency heart surgery after a procedure to help improve his erratic heartbeat caused a puncture in the wall of his heart, the Gloucester inquest was told.

The 72-year-old was discharged from hospital after making a good recovery, but collapsed at his home in Chantry Gardens, Bourton-on-the-Hill, and was rushed to Cheltenham General Hospital where he died a few days later.

His GP Dr Paul Lutter told Gloucestershire Deputy Coroner David Dooley he had suffered an irregular heartbeat since 2007.

“In 2009, I referred him for to a cardiac consultant for an opinion and this led to a procedure which was successful for a short time,” he added.

“By 2010, the problem had returned and so he was admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for a cardiac ablation procedure.”

That procedure was carried out on December 10 by consultant cardiologist Dr Timothy Betts who told the hearing at Gloucester Coroners Court that it involved using a long probe controlled by x-rays to enter the heart through a vein in the leg.

The tip of the probe (catheter) was then heated and used to cauterise areas inside the heart where abnormal electrical activity causing the irregular heartbeat was taking place.

"The effect is to turn these areas into scar tissue, stop the abnormal electrical activity and restore a natural heart rhythm," he said.

Mr Nielsen had chosen to have the procedure and had been warned of the possible dangers, he added.

One of these dangers was a one per cent chance that the heated catheter could perforate the heart muscle.

The catheter did perforate the wall of Mr Nielsen’s heart and the first Mr Betts knew of it was when blood started to collect.

When the blood flow could not be stopped, he asked heart surgeons to assist and it was decided to open Mr Nielsen’s chest and repair the heart perforation.

The surgeons stitched the perforation closed with a pad, Mr Betts said, and between December 10 and 25 Mr Nielsen made a slow but satisfactory recovery.

Mr Nielsen was also treated to further control his heart rhythm and this too was successful he said.

He felt Mr Nielsen was ready to go home.

In answer to questions from Mr Nielsen’s family he said the ablation procedure was computer controlled and the tip of the catheter could not get too hot.

"Why some people perforate and others don’t is due to normal variations in the heart wall and there is no way of measuring its thickness," he said.

Mr Nielsen was discharged and returned home but on December 31, he felt faint and then collapsed.

He was rushed to Cheltenham General Hospital but became increasingly unwell with what doctors thought was a chest infection.

He was treated with antibiotics but nothing further could be done and after discussions with his family, he was put on an end of life pathway.

He died on January 6 2011.

A post mortem was carried out by consultant pathologist Professor Neil Shepherd, who found that his death had been caused by an infection at the site of the repaired heart perforation, which had allowed pieces of infected blood clot to pass through the bloodstream affecting all Mr Nielsen’s organs.

"It is clear that this infection started after Mr Nielsen left the John Radcliffe, since the infection he had there had been cleared up before his discharge," he said.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Dooley said that Mr Nielsen’s death at the relatively young age of 72 had caused great sadness to his family.

"He died three and a half weeks after the elective surgery and had been told of the risks," he said.

"His death was the unintended consequence of the procedure to help his heart beat properly. But for the surgery, he would not have died when he did," he added.