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Study Finds High Rate Of Errors In The ICU

A study released by John Hopkins University School of Medicine found that as many as 40,500 of the 540,000 ICU-related deaths in the United States every year result from a misdiagnosis. The study, which was published in the online journal BMJ Quality and Safety, also found that misdiagnosis in ICU patients was as much as 50 percent more common than among general hospital patients.

According the Dr. Bradford Winters, the lead author of the study, the high frequency of deadly misdiagnosis was alarming. Winters was surprised by the findings due to the fact that patients in the ICU are the more monitored, tested and examined patients in the hospital.

John Hopkins analyzed 31 different studies from 1966 to 2011 involving autopsy-confirmed diagnostic errors in adult ICU patients, and calculated that 28 percent had a missed diagnosis at the time of their death.

The most common misdiagnoses included heart attacks that could have been prevented with an accurate diagnosis.

The Atlantic reported that the major problem identified in the study were errors of omission, or something clinicians failed to do as opposed to something they did. These errors may also come from the fact that clinicians are overwhelmed with thousands of pieces of information every day.

The study hopes to lead to new strategies as well as more funding toward preventing misdiagnosis.

At Freidin Brown, P.A. we have represented families of individuals who have died as a result of a misdiagnosis, including failure to detect ischemic heart conditions, failure to timely diagnose cancer and failure to detect aortic dissections.

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

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