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Shocking Misdiagnosis and Missed Diagnosis Rates in ICUs: Part I

The intensive care unit (ICU) is a frightening place. This unit is where the hospital receives its most gravely ill and injured patients, provided that they survive the emergency room and the surgical floor. Because the patients housed in ICU are so critically ill or injured, the web of care providers, testing, tubes and monitors assigned to a single patient is infinitely complex.

The nurses, aides and physicians who run these units should be commended for their hard work and tireless hours of service to critical patients. However, in this unit, attention to detail is particularly crucial. Unfortunately, a preventable but common byproduct of the complex nature of this unit and its constant need for attention to the smallest details about patients results in unparalleled rates of both missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis, as compared with other units in hospitals.

Researchers at the esteemed Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently published a meta-analysis related to missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis rates in ICUs. According to the analysis, it is likely that over a quarter of ICU patients who die while hospitalized have their situations complicated by missed diagnoses. As a result, more U.S. ICU patients may die due to complications from missed diagnoses each year than women die of breast cancer in America.

The lead author of the study called its statistical results, "surprising and alarming." What is causing this systemic problem of missed and misdiagnosis in ICUs across the nation and what can be done about it? Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Alarming Rate of Errors in the ICU," Cristine Russell, Aug. 28, 2012

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