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Cocaine ‘starved’ enlarged heart of taxi driver, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 16:59 06 December 2010

Westminister Coroners Court, London

Westminister Coroners Court, London

Archant

A TAXI driver died in hospital when his heart stopped after undergoing “high risk” emergency surgery to mend a tear in a major blood vessel, an inquest told.

Ronald Jones was rushed into the operating theatre after his aorta ruptured in the early hours of September 30, but he died later the same day.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard that though the surgery had been successful, the 49-year-old had a heart more than twice the normal size.

When he died his heart weighed 850g while the normal upper limit is 380g.

Consultant pathologist Dr Peter Wilkins said Mr Jones’ enlarged heart was caused by a “classic case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” – a disease in the muscle of the heart which can lead to heart failure.

The cabbie also suffered from high-blood pressure for which he had not been taking his medication and toxicology tests carried out after his death revealed potentially fatal levels of cocaine in his blood.

Dr Wilkins said the drug has a direct effect on the heart which causes it to contract, which, in an enlarged heart, would lead to the organ being “relatively starved” of oxygen.

Mr Jones, of Wolseley Road, Upton Park, was transferred from University College Hospital London to the Heart Hospital in Marylebone after being diagnosed with an aortic dissection.

According to experts the condition carries a 90 per cent chance of death if not operated on while the risk is reduced to 30 per cent if surgery is carried out.

Consultant cardiac surgeon Amir Sheikh said in a statement read at the inquest: “This is a critical diagnosis whereby there’s a partial rupture of the aortic wall.

“It carries an extremely high and usually rapid mortality without surgical intervention.”

He said that after the tear was repaired it was not possible to restart the heart successfully and despite the best efforts of doctors Mr Jones died.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said: “This has been a tragic death, but I think on the evidence Mr Jones has died of natural causes.”


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