WebM&M Cases & Commentaries
WebM&M (Morbidity & Mortality Rounds on the Web) features expert analysis of medical errors reported anonymously by our readers. Spotlight Cases include interactive learning modules available for CME. Commentaries are written by patient safety experts and published monthly. Contribute by Submitting a Case anonymously.
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Robert Chang, MD, and Scott Flanders, MD; February 2019
A woman was admitted to a hospital's telemetry floor for management of uncontrolled hypertension and palpitations. On the first hospital day, she complained of right arm numbness and weakness and had new difficulty answering questions. The nurse called the hospitalist and relayed the arm symptoms, but not the word-finding difficulty. The hospitalist asked the nurse to call for a neurology consultation. Four hours later, the patient's weakness had progressed; she was now completely unable to move her right arm. At that point, neither the hospitalist nor the neurology consultant had evaluated the patient in person. A stat head CT revealed a large ischemic stroke.
- Spotlight Case
Amy Vogelsmeier, PhD, RN, and Laurel Despins, PhD, RN; January 2016
Admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy, a man with leukemia and diabetes arrived on the medical unit on a busy afternoon and waited until his room was ready. The nurse who checked him in assumed that his admitting orders were completed on the previous shift. That night, the patient took his own insulin from home without a meal and experienced a preventable episode of hypoglycemia.
- Spotlight Case
Michele M. Pelter, RN, PhD, and Barbara J. Drew, RN, PhD; December 2015
Following a non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, a man was admitted to the hospital and placed on a telemetry monitor. As the monitor was constantly sounding with "low voltage" and "asystole" alerts and the patient was well each time clinicians checked, they silenced the alarms. The patient was found dead 4 hours later.
Sonia C. Swayze, RN, MA, and Angela James, RN, BSN; March 2013
While drawing labs on a woman admitted after a lung transplant, a nurse failed to clamp the patient's large-bore central line, allowing air to enter the catheter. The patient suffered a cerebral air embolism and was transferred to the ICU for several days.
Rodney W. Hicks, PhD, RN, FNP; February 2013
After delivering a healthy infant via Caesarean section, a young woman was to receive morphine via PCA pump. A mix-up in programming the concentration of medication delivered by the pump led to a fatal outcome.
Mark Ault, MD, and Bradley Rosen, MD, MBA; February 2013
A woman found unresponsive at home presented to the ED via ambulance. The cardiology team used the central line placed during resuscitation to deliver medications and fluids during pacemaker insertion. Hours later, a chest radiograph showed whiteout of the right lung, and clinicians realized that the tip of the line was actually within the lung.
Nancy Moureau, BSN, RN, CRNI, CPUI, VA-BC; December 2012
A woman undergoing treatment for myasthenia gravis via PICC developed extensive catheter-related thrombosis, bacteremia, and sepsis, and ultimately died. Although the PICC line was placed at one facility, the patient was receiving treatment at another, raising questions about who had responsibility for the line.
Joseph S. Alpert, MD; November 2012
A woman with new onset chest pain was admitted to the hospital. Although the computer readout of her electrocardiogram stated "***ACUTE MI***" at the top, the nursing assistant who performed the test placed it in the patient's bedside chart without notifying a nurse or physician. The patient was, in fact, having a myocardial infarction, whose treatment was delayed.
Elizabeth Manias, PhD, RN, MPharm; October 2012
After having a seizure in the emergency department, a woman was to receive intravenous administration of an antiseizure medication. The nurse misread the medication order, gathered 32 vials of the medication, and administered a 10-fold overdose to the patient, who died several minutes later.
- Spotlight Case
Jeanne M. Farnan, MD, MHPE; and Vineet M. Arora, MD, MAPP; May 2012
Inadequate signout to the members of the night float team prevented them from appreciating a patient's mental status changes. Found comatose by the weekend cross-coverage team, the patient had a prolonged ICU stay.
- Spotlight Case
Michelle Mourad, MD, and Stephanie Rennke, MD; March 2012
A woman hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia was discharged home on antibiotics. Over the next few days, her symptoms worsened, but she was unable to obtain an appointment with her primary physician. The hospital called the patient that day to follow up, determined that she needed a different antibiotic, and prevented a readmission.
Nancy Spector, PhD, RN ; March 2011
While caring for a complex patient in the surgical intensive care unit, a nurse incorrectly set up the continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) machine, raising questions about how new nurses should be trained in high-risk procedures.
Dorothy Dougherty, RN; November 2010
A hospitalized 2-month-old infant is fed breast milk from another infant's mother after the wrong bottle is pulled from the ward's refrigerator.
- Spotlight Case
Victoria Rich, PhD, RN; August 2009
Admitted to the ICU for COPD exacerbation and atrial fibrillation, a patient who had stabilized is left unattended in the bathroom while the nurse on an understaffed unit attends to a more emergent patient. An assistant later finds the patient on the floor, unresponsive and cyanotic.
Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC; January 2008
A nurse has trouble placing an IV catheter for a woman receiving her first dose of outpatient chemotherapy. The patient complains of pain at the site. Closer examination revealed that the chemotherapy had infused outside of the vein into the skin.
Michael Astion, MD, PhD ; December 2006
A man admitted to the hospital for elective surgery has blood drawn. Despite a policy for proper identification, the blood samples were all mislabeled with another patient's name. The error was discovered at the lab, and there was no harm to the patient.
Mary A. Blegen, PhD, RN; Ginette A. Pepper, PhD, RN; May 2006
A nursing student administers the wrong 'cup' of medications to an elderly man. A different student discovered the error when she reviewed the medicines in her patient's cup and noticed they were the wrong ones.
Tess Pape, PhD, RN, CNOR; February 2006
Bypassing the safeguards of an automated dispensing machine in a skilled nursing facility, a nurse administers medications from a portable medication cart. A non-diabetic patient receives insulin by mistake, which requires his admission to intensive care and delays his chemotherapy for cancer.
- Spotlight Case
Richard H. White, MD ; July-August 2005
An intern increases a patient's warfarin dosage nightly based on subtherapeutic INR levels drawn each morning; after several days, the patient develops potentially life-threatening bleeding.
Ann Williamson, PhD, RN; May 2004
An antenatal room left in disarray causes a charge nurse to search for the missing patient. Investigation reveals that a resident had performed an ultrasound on a nurse friend rather than a true "patient."