Call for pre-surgery pregnancy tests after unborn baby tragedy

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THE NHS is to look at the issue of pregnancy tests for women of child-bearing age before surgery after a businesswoman was forced to abort her baby following a minor operation.

The NHS medical director for England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, has confirmed that he will investigate what changes needed to be implemented after it was reported that Louise Pellegrino underwent surgery to remove a cyst in her breast without knowing she was pregnant with her third child.

Subsequent tests revealed that the 37-year-old businesswoman’s unborn baby had holoprosencephaly, which is a disorder where the front part of the brain does not develop properly.

The condition has been linked with anaesthesia in early pregnancy and often results in the expectant mother enduring a late miscarriage or the death of their child soon after birth.

Ms Pellegrino, who aborted the baby at 16 weeks, claims that she would not have had the operation if had she known she was pregnant.

Sir Bruce said: “I would like to apologise to Mrs Pellegrino and the other women this has happened to.

“I want to help build an NHS that learns and here is a typical example where we can put in place a process to reduce the chance of this happening again. I will look at this.”

Guidance from The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence which was released in 2003 states that women of childbearing age should be asked if there is a chance they may be pregnant and then possibly be tested.

The concern is that women are not being asked before they undergo medical procedures.

Sir Bruce added: “To the ordinary person this will seem unnecessary and avoidable.

“This is not just an issue for the NHS because of the increasing numbers of young women who are undergoing cosmetic procedures in the private sector.”

The National Patient Safety Agency, which covers England, issued a rapid response alert four years ago to NHS hospitals and those in the private sector after there were a number of miscarriages following surgery.