Study: High Rate Of Misdiagnosis-Related Fatalities In ICU Units

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Johns Hopkins University released a new study that shows a surprisingly high rate of diagnosis errors in ICU deaths. The study claims that more than a quarter of ICU deaths involved a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis.

By analyzing over 30 studies of diagnostic-related fatalities from the past 50 years, the study concluded that 28 percent of patients suffered from undiagnosed conditions when they died. But nearly 10 percent of those errors were severe enough to have actually killed the patients. Dr. Bradford Winters, the author of the study, warned that this statistic suggests that more than 40,000 ICU fatalities could result from diagnostic errors every year.

These results raise two big concerns.

First, this study does not include misdiagnosis-related injuries because it only considered autopsy data. The rate of non-fatal medical malpractice injuries could be just as high or higher for ICU patients.

And, second, these misdiagnosis numbers come out of one of the most rigorous care models we have. ICU’s exist to provide a higher level of treatment and medical supervision for the most extreme cases. As Dr. Winters noted, “these patients are under a microscope, and yet clinicians still missed these diagnoses.”

Hopefully this study will galvanize further work to improve the quality of ICU treatment to avoid unnecessary incidents.

Source: The Atlantic, “The Alarming Rate of Errors in the ICU,” Christine Russell, Aug. 28, 2012

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