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 5
- Culture of Safety 4
- Education and Training 4
- Error Reporting and Analysis 2
- Human Factors Engineering 4
- Legal and Policy Approaches 3
- Logistical Approaches 2
- Quality Improvement Strategies 5
- Specialization of Care 1
- Teamwork 4
- Technologic Approaches 3
- Device-related Complications 1
- Diagnostic Errors 5
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 2
- Interruptions and distractions 1
- Medical Complications 4
- Medication Safety 2
- Psychological and Social Complications 2
- Surgical Complications
- Nursing 2
Stephanie Rogers, MD, and Derek Ward, MD; April 2019
An elderly man with a complicated medical history slipped on a rug at home, fell, and injured his hip. Emergency department evaluation and imaging revealed no head injury and a left intertrochanteric hip fracture. Although he was admitted to the orthopedic surgery service, with surgery to fix the fracture initially scheduled for the next day, the operation was delayed by 3 days due to several emergent trauma cases and lack of surgeon availability. He ultimately underwent surgery and was discharged a few days later but was readmitted several weeks later with chest pain and shortness of breath. He was found to have a pulmonary embolism; anticoagulation was initiated. The patient's rehabilitation was delayed, his recovery was prolonged, and he never returned to his baseline functional status.
- 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.
- Spotlight Case
Shirley C. Paski, MD, MSc, and Jason A. Dominitz, MD, MHS; July 2017
Following an uncomplicated surgery, an older man developed acute colonic pseudo-obstruction refractory to conservative management. During a decompression colonoscopy, the patient's colon was perforated.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Marc J. Shapiro, MD; February 2004
Trusting an incorrectly labeled chest x-ray over physical exam findings, a resident places a chest tube for pneumothorax in the wrong side.
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.