‘Bright’ student, 17, died after ‘critical failing’ to detect treatable tumour with ‘simple’ urine test

‘Bright’ student, 17, died after ‘critical failing’ to detect treatable tumour with ‘simple’ urine test

A TEENAGER died after a hospital’s “critical failing” to detect a treatable tumour through a simple urine test, an inquest heard.

Adam Ali suffered from high blood pressure from the age of nine but medics let the growth lie undetected for years, the hearing was told.

Adam Ali, 17, died in September 2021
Adam Ali, 17, died in September 2021Credit: BPM
An inquest heard how medics 'failed' to detect he had a rare tumour
An inquest heard how medics ‘failed’ to detect he had a rare tumourCredit: BPM

The 17-year-old “would likely still be here today” had his underlying paraganglioma – from which he died – been found and removed, Birmingham Coroner’s Court heard. 

A urine test would have led to its discovery, resulting in life-saving surgery, it is believed.

Adam gave samples in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but none were ever processed and staff wrongly “assumed” the results had come back as “normal” when checking the notes.

A registrar’s letter advising to “try again” was “not checked” and became lost, the hearing was told. 


A lack of clinical curiosity, along with Adam being passed between “lots of different doctors”, meant the “error” was never picked up and no one “thought about it again”, the inquest heard.

No further tests for paraganglioma were carried out after 2015, despite Adam continuing to suffer with persistent high blood pressure and attending numerous outpatient appointments at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

He died six years later on September 19, 2021.

A day earlier, Adam had been watching football at his grandparents’ house in Shirley, Solihull, when he began to vomit and have pain in his back.

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Concerned, they took him to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where he deteriorated rapidly and was pronounced dead in the early hours of the following morning.

His cause of death was given as adrenergic crisis as a result of the undiagnosed paraganglioma, the court was told.

Senior coroner Louise Hunt said the hospital‘s neglect had contributed to his passing, describing the fact his urine tests weren’t followed up as a “critical failing” in his care.

She told the hearing: “Had the test been done, it is likely he would have been diagnosed with the condition and it is likely to have resulted in him being here today.

“His death was contributed to by neglect. Changes have been made and I’m satisfied that a tragedy like this will not happen again.”

Dr Fiona Reynolds, who carried out an investigation to identify improvements at the hospital, added: “Paraganglioma is a very rare diagnosis.

“We are here to find these rare diagnoses and we failed in that.”

Birmingham Children’s Hospital has since changed the way it carries out tests, with blood now taken instead of urine. 

Neil Bugg, deputy chief medical officer, said: “We offer our sincerest apologies and condolences to Adam’s family and loved ones.

“An internal investigation was set up immediately after the Trust learned of Adam’s death.

“It is clear the standard of care offered did not meet those expected and, for this, we are truly sorry.

“Following the comprehensive review, we can confirm changes to practice and processes have been made to make sure this does not happen again.”

Adam’s uncle previously said his sudden death had “left a hole in everybody’s lives”.

He described him as an “amazing” and “bright child”, who was “so respectful” and “prayed five times a day”.

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“He touched so many people’s hearts,” he added.

“His life has just started, it was blossoming. He had his whole life ahead of him.”

What is a paraganglioma?

PARAGANGLIOMAS are rare tumours that affect between one and eight people per million each year.

They are found outside of the adrenal gland, and can arise anywhere.

Some people won’t experience any symptoms, but others might notice:

  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Shaking or tremors

A paraganglioma is identified through a urine and/or blood sample to check hormone levels, then through imaging scans like MRI, CT and PET.

Treatment usually involves surgery, and sometimes drug therapy.

Prognosis depends on where the tumour is in the body, if it has spread, and how much of it was taken out during surgery.

Source: NHS and the National Cancer Institute


Alice Fuller

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