A PATIENT who died after routine surgery had suffered massive blood loss following the operation, an inquest has heard.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Salahuddin Qureshi told the Middlesbrough inquest into the death of 33-year-old Elaine Basham, of Loftus, east Cleveland, that she could have suffered three cardiac arrests after she lost about three-and-a-half litres of blood through post-operative haemorrhaging.

She died ten days after the operation to remove her tonsils and adenoids at the former North Riding Infirmary, in Middlesbrough.

Speaking about Miss Basham's first cardiac arrest, Dr Qureshi said: "My feeling would perhaps be that it was the haemorrhaging, to a very great extent, which probably caused that, although there could have been some contribution from blood sitting in her mouth or throat."

When asked by Nia Drabble, the solicitor for the former infirmary, what the effects of Miss Basham's blood loss could have been, he said: "It was a really massive blood loss - people could die from that blood loss alone."

Despite efforts to save Miss Basham, who had Down's syndrome, she died in intensive care in what is now the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, on November 15, 2001.

The jury heard the timetable of the events that followed the operation, which resulted in Miss Basham dying of multiple organ failure. She was operated on at 2.30pm and was back in her ward less than two hours later.

However, by 6pm she was experiencing blood loss and was taken back to theatre.

The problem recurred a couple of hours later and that was when Miss Basham suffered the first of her cardiac arrests.

Richard Follis, representing the Basham family, told the hearing that Miss Basham's mother said she had seen the doctor lay her daughter on her back, which resulted in her struggling to breathe and losing consciousness.

But Dr Qureshi denied Miss Basham had been laid on her back until she was unconscious.

Miss Basham never regained consciousness and was kept sedated until she died.

The inquest continues.