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 between Providers 9
- Culture of Safety 4
- Education and Training 5
- Error Reporting and Analysis 4
- Human Factors Engineering 4
- Legal and Policy Approaches 3
- Logistical Approaches 2
- Quality Improvement Strategies 7
- Specialization of Care 1
- Teamwork 2
- Technologic Approaches 7
- Device-related Complications 5
- Diagnostic Errors 4
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 7
- Identification Errors 1
- Interruptions and distractions 1
- Medical Complications 6
- Medication Safety 6
- Psychological and Social Complications 2
- Surgical Complications 10
- Transfusion Complications 1
- Internal Medicine
- Nursing 3
- Palliative Care 1
Jeanne M. Farnan, MD, MHPE; April 2016
A man with a pulmonary embolus was ordered argatroban for anticoagulation. The next day, an intern noticed that the patient in the next room, a woman with a GI bleed, had argatroban hanging on her IV pole, but the label showed the name of the man with the pulmonary embolus. The nurse was notified, the medication was stopped, and the error was disclosed to the patient.
Charles John Gonzalez, MD; April 2014
Scheduled for a hip replacement, a man with AIDS presented with sciatica. The spine surgeon administered a corticosteroid injection to control his symptoms. Soon after the patient experienced sweats, abdominal pain, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety. He was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome due to an adverse interaction between the HIV medication and the corticosteroid.
Roy Ilan, MD, MSc; May 2013
A woman was emergently admitted for surgery for acute appendicitis. Although the patient had a chest port for breast cancer chemotherapy, the surgeon demanded that a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) be placed. The patient developed blood clots from the PICC, and surgery was cancelled. Significant complications, including perforation, peritonitis, and prolonged hospitalization, arose from managing the appendicitis conservatively.
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.
Jim Fackler, MD, and Jamie M. Schwartz, MD; October 2011
Residents and nurses assumed an ICU attending was conveying information to the surgeon and cardiologist about a toddler's deteriorating condition after heart surgery. However, none of the providers had a complete picture of the child's status, and he suffered a cardiac arrest.
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.
Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH; Dean F. Sittig, PhD; Maureen Layden, MD, MPH; November 2010
At two different hospitals, patients were instructed to continue home medications, even though their medication lists had errors that could have led to significant adverse consequences.
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.
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.
- Spotlight Case
Ernest J. Ring, MD; Jane E. Hirsch, RN, MS; October 2009
Cardiology consultation on an elderly man admitted to the orthopedic service following a hip fracture reveals aortic stenosis. The cardiologist recommends against surgery, due to the risk of anesthesia. When the nurse reads these recommendations to the orthopedic resident, he calls her "stupid" and contacts the OR to schedule the surgery anyway. The Chief Medical Officer is called to intervene.
- Spotlight Case
Vesselin Dimov, MD; April 2009
A premature infant had a PICC line placed for parenteral nutrition. During an attempt to remove it, the line broke. The infant had to be sent for surgical removal of the catheter and required an increased level of care, including ventilator support.
Curtiss B. Cook, MD; January 2009
Admitted to the hospital for surgery, a man with type 1 diabetes mellitus asked the staff to leave his home insulin pump in place but did not mention that he was adjusting his insulin pump himself based on serial glucose measurements. As the patient was also receiving an intravenous insulin infusion, he developed hypoglycemia.
Lydia C. Siegel, MD; Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH; January 2009
Four months after surgery, a woman with osteosarcoma receiving outpatient chemotherapy was admitted for possible cellulitis. Discharged home on methotrexate and antibiotics, the patient developed methotrexate toxicity, partly due to a drug interaction.
Roslyn Yomtovian, MD; July 2008
Following spinal surgeries, two different patients developed tachycardia, hypotension, and hypoxia due to sepsis. Given the similarity in clinical course, the hospital investigated and found that both patients had received platelets contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus.
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.
B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD; March 2007
Several days after a patient’s surgery, preliminary wound cultures grew Staphylococcus aureus. Although the final sensitivity profile for the cultures showed resistance to the antibiotic that the patient was receiving, the care team was not notified and the patient died of sepsis.
- Spotlight Case
Elizabeth B. Lamont, MD, MS; September 2004
Following hernia repair surgery, an elderly woman is incidentally found to have a mass in her neck. Expecting the worst, the treating physician recommends palliative care and withdrawal of mechanical ventilation, before biopsy results are in.
Arpana Vidyarthi, MD; March 2004
Due to a series of incomplete signouts, information about a patient's post-operative leg pain and chest discomfort is not conveyed to the primary team. A PE is discovered post-mortem.
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.