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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- Communication Improvement 6
- Culture of Safety 2
- Education and Training 2
- Error Reporting and Analysis 2
- Human Factors Engineering 5
- Legal and Policy Approaches 2
- Quality Improvement Strategies 4
- Specialization of Care 2
- Teamwork 2
- Technologic Approaches 2
- Device-related Complications 3
- Diagnostic Errors 3
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 3
- Identification Errors 1
- Interruptions and distractions 1
- Medical Complications 2
- Medication Safety 2
- Psychological and Social Complications 2
- Surgical Complications 9
- Spotlight Case
Jeffrey Jim, MD, MPHS; August 2018
An older man with multiple medical conditions and an extensive smoking history was admitted to the hospital with worsening shortness of breath. He underwent transthoracic echocardiogram, which demonstrated severe aortic stenosis. The cardiology team recommended cardiac catheterization, but the interventional cardiologist could not advance the catheter and an aortogram revealed an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) measuring 9 cm in diameter. Despite annual visits to his primary care physician, he had never undergone screening ultrasound to assess for presence of an AAA. The patient was sent emergently for surgical repair but had a complicated surgical course.
Jamie M. Robertson, PhD, MPH, and Charles N. Pozner, MD; April 2018
A clinical team decided to use a radial artery approach for cardiac catheterization in a woman with morbid obesity. It took multiple attempts to access her radial artery. After catheter insertion, she experienced pain and pressure in her arm and chest. Review of the angiogram demonstrated the presence of an air embolism in the left coronary artery, introduced during the catheter insertion. Due to the difficulty of the procedure, the technician had failed to hold the syringe at the proper angle and introduced an air bubble into the patient's vessel.
Ian Solsky, MD, and Alex B. Haynes, MD, MPH; December 2017
Prior to performing a bilateral femoral artery embolectomy on a man with coronary artery disease and diabetes, the team used a surgical safety checklist for a preoperative briefing. Although the surgeon told the anesthesiologist the patient would benefit from epidural analgesia continued into the perioperative period, he failed to mention the patient would be therapeutically anticoagulated for several days postoperatively. No postoperative debriefing was conducted. The anesthesiologist continued orders for epidural analgesia and the epidural catheter remained in place, putting the patient at risk of bleeding.
- Spotlight Case
by John G. DeVine, MD; March 2015
A man with suspected renal cell carcinoma seen on CT in the right kidney was transferred to another hospital for surgical management. The imaging was not sent with him, but hospital records, which incorrectly documented the tumor as being on the left side—were. The second hospital did not obtain repeat imaging, and the surgeon did not see the original CT prior to removing the wrong kidney.
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.
Robert R. Cima, MD, MA; September 2012
Following successful bypass surgery and mitral valve repair, an elderly man with diabetes, hypertension, and end-stage renal disease continued to attend hemodialysis and other clinic visits regularly. Eight months later, he was admitted to the hospital with shaking chills, confusion, and a collection of pus in his chest. A surgical procedure to free the trapped lung also uncovered a surgical instrument from the previous surgery.
Marta L. Render, MD; May 2012
After placing a central line in an elderly patient following a heart attack, a community hospital transferred him to a referral hospital for stenting of his coronary arteries. He was discharged to an assisted living facility 2 days later, with the central line still in place.
- 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.
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.
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.
Joan M. Teno, MD, MS; April 2008
Despite having a signed DNR (do not resuscitate) form, an elderly man brought to the emergency department with severe pain was rushed to the operating room for urgent abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
Jose L. Baez-Escudero, MD; Glenn N. Levine, MD; September 2007
A man underwent coronary angiography; one stent was placed and bypass surgery was scheduled for 4 days later. He developed bleeding at the catheter site and returned to the hospital. A CT scan revealed a large retroperitoneal hematoma, which was repaired surgically. While in the hospital awaiting the delayed bypass surgery, the patient had a cardiac arrest and died.
Jeffrey M. Pearl, MD; Nancy E. Donaldson RN, DNSc; July-August 2005
A nurse preparing a patient for transfer out of the ICU discovers the guidewire used for central line placement (1 week earlier) still in the patient's leg vein.
Darren R. Linkin, MD; Ebbing Lautenbach, MD, MPH, MSCE; February 2004
Infection Control notices an uptick in post-operative wound infections for patients from one OR team. Environmental rounds reveal "sloppy" practices.
J. Forrest Calland, MD; January 2004
During a hernia repair, surgeons decide to remove a patient's hydrocele, spermatic cord, and left testiclewithout realizing that his right testicle had been removed previously.
Andre R. Campbell, MD; April 2003
Laparoscopic colostomy completed in reverse induces total bowel obstruction.