Prominent Perth cardiologist Keith Woollard acted carelessly when an inflated balloon burst inside a patient’s coronary artery during an operation on a 70-year-old patient six years ago, the State Administrative Tribunal has ruled.
But in a decision published today after being handed down on Friday, the tribunal did not find that Dr Woollard had acted incompetently during the surgery at the Mount Hospital in August 2006.
The decision follows a hearing in June into allegations by the Medical Board of Australia that Dr Woollard, the husband of independent MP Janet Woollard, had acted carelessly or incompetently in the conduct of the angioplasty.
The tribunal found that Dr Woollard, a medical practitioner for more than 40 years and specialist cardiologist for over 30 years, caused the inflation of the balloon to a pressure of 18 atmospheres, which was four atmospheres above its rated burst pressure.
During the hearing, Dr Woollard denied inflating the balloon to 18 atmospheres and said he only increased the device to a maximum pressure of 15 atmospheres.
“The tribunal found that this was unsafe in the circumstances, because the over-inflation of the balloon increased the risk of its rupture, particularly in a heavily calcified lesion, which could have devastating consequences, including death,” a summary of the tribunal’s decision said.
“The tribunal also found that while it may not be uncommon for some interventional cardiologists to exceed the rated burst pressure of a balloon by one or two atmospheres, it is not safe practice to do so.”
The tribunal found it was careless to cause the inflation of the balloon to 18 atmospheres without changing to a non-compliant balloon with thicker walls. The patient involved had to undergo emergency open heart surgery and survived, later making a complaint to the Medical Board.
“However, the tribunal did not find that Dr Woollard acted incompetently, because, at the relevant time, he was in the final stages of training to be able to perform angioplasties and performed the angioplasty in question under the supervision of an accredited interventional cardiologist,” the summary said.
The tribunal has sought written submissions on the penalty to be applied against Dr Woollard on the disciplinary matters.