11-Year-Old Girl’s Demise Following Intubation Complications during Back Surgery

Intubation Complications during Back Surgery: In a heartbreaking incident, an 11-year-old girl lost her life last month in western France due to rare complications arising from intubation during back surgery.

The girl had been enduring the debilitating effects of scoliosis, a condition characterized by a sideways curvature of the spine. The severity of her condition necessitated back surgery, which took place at the Brest University Hospital Centre in Finistère. However, the procedure took a devastating turn, as reported by Le Parisien.

Intubation Complications during Back Surgery
a nurse prepping for surgery in an operating theater.

During the surgery on August 3, a perforation of the trachea occurred—a rare complication that can arise from the placement of a catheter in the patient’s windpipe. Typically, this complication manifests as a tear or break in the windpipe, hindering the proper flow of air to the lungs.
Recognizing the appearance of purple marks and swelling on the girl’s body, her medical team promptly halted the surgery. She began coughing, and subsequently, she was swiftly transferred to the intensive care unit for close monitoring.

Initially, doctors remained hopeful about the child’s recovery and planned to reschedule the operation. Unfortunately, her condition deteriorated, and tragically, she passed away on August 2, just before the rescheduled procedure was scheduled to take place.
“The care team realized that the situation was extremely serious, and the child had been deprived of adequate oxygen for a prolonged period,” stated Me Vincent Sehier, the family’s lawyer, during an interview with French news network BFM TV.

surgery-Intubation Complications during Back Surgery
Representational image of a surgery.

“While the tracheal perforation itself can happen—a therapeutic hazard—it is the subsequent handling of the situation that seems to have been mishandled,” he added. “Tracheal perforations can occur, but it is the aftermath that raises concerns.”

As reported by Le Parisien, the hospital has refrained from commenting on the situation. However, the Brest public prosecutor’s office has initiated an investigation into the matter, exploring possible charges of manslaughter.
The family was informed by the hospital that, even after a month had passed since the incident, they were still uncertain about precisely what had transpired. They acknowledged the presence of errors but denied any outright mistakes—a distinction that deeply hurt the family. Me Vincent Sehier conveyed their intention to fight against such characterizations, criticizing the hospital’s lack of transparency.

Tracheal rupture during endotracheal intubation, where a catheter is inserted into the windpipe, is an exceedingly rare occurrence, transpiring at a rate of only 0.005 percent.

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