Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a meta-analysis recently released by researchers out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The analysis centers on rates of missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis in American ICUs. Unfortunately, the results do not bode well for patient safety.
According to The Atlantic, "researchers found that as many as 40,500 critically ill patients in the United States may die annually when clinicians fail to diagnose hidden life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and stroke." These statistical results were based on analysis of 31 published studies related to ICU patient autopsy over the past several decades.
Overall, researchers concluded that close to 30 percent of ICU patients have a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis at their time of death. In close to 10 percent of ICU patients who die while hospitalized, the negligent misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis likely contributed to their deaths.
Moreover, these rates of missed and misdiagnosis are roughly 50 percent more common in ICU patients than the same negligent occurrences in general hospital patients. This is particularly problematic, given that approximately half of all hospitalized patient deaths in America either occur in ICU patients or in patients who have recently been discharged from the ICU.
Certain factors leading to these negligent diagnostic issues, such as medication errors, infection, etc. are completely preventable. However, hospitals and staff must follow protocol to the letter in order to avoid many of these mistakes.
At this point, ICU staff must take these findings into serious consideration in order to avoid more wrongful deaths. However, future action will not help the victims who have already passed on. If your loved one died during or immediately following an ICU stay and you are concerned that a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis played a role in his or her death, please consult with an experienced attorney in order to explore your legal options.
Source: The Atlantic, "The Alarming Rate of Errors in the ICU," Cristine Russell, Aug. 28, 2012