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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Krishna Moorthy, MD, MS; January 2015
Following outpatient laparoscopic surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, a man with no significant past medical history had high levels of pain at the surgical site and was admitted to the hospital. With sustained pain on postoperative day 3, the patient developed tachycardia with abdominal distension and a low-grade fever. A CT scan revealed a bowel perforation, which required surgery and a lengthy ICU stay due to septicemia.
- Spotlight Case
Thomas A. Smith, CHPA, CPP; June 2014
Hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal, an elderly man was feeling "cooped up" by hospital day 6 and left the floor without informing any providers. An hour later upon return to his room, he complained of new arm pain. While off hospital grounds, the patient had fallen and broken his arm.
- Spotlight Case
Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, and Joshua A. Hirsch, MD; September 2013
Hospitalized for pneumonia and asthma, a man with chronic pain was found to be using pain medications not prescribed to him. During his hospitalization, the pain service was consulted and changed his medications to better control the pain. Five days after discharge, the patient died, presumably from an unintentional overdose of his old and new prescriptions.
- Spotlight Case
Nicholas Symons, MBChB, MSc; July-August 2013
An elderly woman with severe abdominal pain was admitted for an emergency laparotomy for presumed small bowel obstruction. Shortly after induction of anesthesia, her heart stopped. She was resuscitated and transferred to the intensive care unit, where she died the next morning. The review committee felt this case represented a diagnostic error, which led to unnecessary surgery and a preventable death.
Ashish C. Sinha, MD, PhD; July-August 2013
Following general anesthesia for hip repair surgery, an elderly woman with a history of hypertension and obesity developed hypercarbic respiratory failure and was reintubated in the recovery unit. Providers felt the patient had undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea and questioned whether obese patients undergoing anesthesia should receive formal preoperative screening for it.
Kevin C. Huoh, MD; Kristina W. Rosbe, MD; June 2011
A healthy child underwent tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. Extubated after an uneventful surgery, within an hour the child became hypoxic and unable to breathe spontaneously, requiring reintubation.
- Spotlight Case
Thomas H. Gallagher, MD; May 2011
Transferred to a tertiary hospital, a child with severe swelling of the brain is found to have venous sinus thromboses and little chance of survival. Further review revealed that the referring hospital had missed subtle signs of cerebral edema on the initial CT scan days earlier, raising the question of whether to disclose the errors of other facilities or caregivers.
John C. Kulli, MD; May 2011
A surgery fellow put two syringes in his pocket: one containing leftover anesthetic and one with agents to reverse it. When it came time to reverse the neuromuscular block, he administered the anesthetic by mistake.
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.
Robert L. Poole, PharmD; Tessa Dixon, PharmD; December 2010
Following a vehicle collision, a man admitted to the hospital was given a twofold overdose of dexamethasone, due to confusion about administration instructions on a multidose vial.
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
Jean L. Holley, MD ; October 2010
A man with end-stage renal disease on hemodialysis was dialyzed with equipment that had been inappropriately reused, exposing the patient to another patient's blood numerous times.
Caprice C. Greenberg, MD, MPH; October 2010
Following an appendectomy, an elderly man continued to have right lower quadrant pain. Reviewing the specimen removed during the surgery, the pathologist found no appendiceal tissue. The patient was emergently taken back to the OR, and the appendix was located and removed.
Jeffrey B. Cooper, PhD; Brinda B. Kamdar, MD; June 2010
Unaware of the plan to remove a spinal drain under general anesthesia, the on-call anesthesiologist attempted to remove it while the patient was awake. The catheter broke, leaving a portion inside the spinal canal. Consequently, a neurosurgeon had to surgically remove the catheter.
Baha Sibai, MD; June 2010
A woman with chronic hypertension developed undiagnosed preeclampsia during pregnancy with twins. At 38 weeks, she experienced respiratory and cardiac arrest. Although she eventually recovered, the infants were stillborn.
Andrew S. Dunn, MD; April 2010
An elderly woman with a history of mitral valve replacement with a mechanical prosthesis was admitted to the hospital for evaluation of abdominal pain. Although an order was written to stop her blood thinner and restart it 48 hours after the procedure, the medication was not restarted.
Robert J. Weber, PharmD, MS; February 2010
An elderly woman presented to the emergency department following a hip fracture. Although the patient's medication bottles were used to generate a medication list, one of the dosages was transcribed incorrectly. Because the patient then received four times her regular dose, her surgery was delayed due to cardiac side effects.
Manish K. Sethi, MD; February 2010
Over the course of 2 years, a patient who frequently came to the emergency department complaining of abdominal pain underwent 12 CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis. All of them were completely normal.
Mary H. McGrath, MD, MPH; December 2009
Eager to have his knee replaced, an active older patient travels overseas for the surgery. At home 2 weeks later, he develops acute pain and swelling in his knee. A local orthopedic surgeon's office tells him to contact his operating physician, nearly 5000 miles away.
Richard A. Smith, DDS; July-August 2007
A patient underwent tooth extraction, but awoke from anesthesia and found that the wrong two teeth had been removed.