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 17
- Culture of Safety 3
- Education and Training 9
- Error Reporting and Analysis 1
- Human Factors Engineering 8
- Legal and Policy Approaches 3
- Logistical Approaches 5
- Quality Improvement Strategies 8
- Specialization of Care 4
- Teamwork 1
- Clinical Information Systems 8
- Device-related Complications 1
- Diagnostic Errors 6
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 13
- Identification Errors 1
- Interruptions and distractions 2
- Medical Complications 5
- Medication Errors/Preventable Adverse Drug Events 8
- Nonsurgical Procedural Complications 2
- Surgical Complications 4
- Internal Medicine
- Surgery 3
- Nursing 4
- Health Care Executives and Administrators 14
Health Care Providers
- Nurses 5
- Non-Health Care Professionals 12
- Spotlight Case
Stephanie Mueller, MD, MPH; February 2019
To transfer a man with possible sepsis to a hospital with subspecialty and critical care, a physician was unaware of a formal protocol and called a colleague at the academic medical center. The colleague secured a bed, and the patient was sent over. However, neither clinical data nor the details of the patient's current condition were transmitted to the hospital's transfer center, and the receiving physician booked a general ward bed rather than an ICU bed. When the patient arrived, his mentation was altered and breathing was rapid. The nurse called the rapid response team, but the patient went into cardiac arrest.
The Risks of Absent Interoperability: Medication-Induced Hemolysis in a Patient With a Known Allergy
- Spotlight Case
Jacob Reider, MD; October 2015
After leaving Hospital X against medical advice, a man with paraplegia presented to the emergency department of Hospital Y with pain and fever. The patient was diagnosed with sepsis and admitted to Hospital Y for management. In the night, the nurse found the patient unresponsive and called a code blue. The patient was resuscitated and transferred to the ICU, where physicians determined that the arrest was due to acute rupturing of his red blood cells (hemolysis), presumably caused by a reaction to the antibiotic. Later that day, the patient's records arrived from three hospitals where he had been treated recently. One record noted that he had previously experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic, which was new information for the providers at Hospital Y.
Jeffrey H. Barsuk, MD, MS, and Cynthia Barnard, MBA, MSJS; December 2014
In a simulation exercise conducted in an institution that felt it was prepared for patients with actual or suspected Ebola, a man presented to the emergency department with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and fever. He had recently returned to the US from Sierra Leone. The nurse initiated an isolation protocol and the critical care team all donned personal protective equipment. During transport, confusion about which elevators to use potentially exposed 30 staff members to Ebola. Additional issues occurred including breaching sterile technique while inserting a central line and confusion about the process to transport the patient's blood to the lab.
Karen Ousey, PhD, RGN; February 2014
A patient admitted for acute liver failure, acute renal failure, respiratory failure, and hepatic encephalopathy had a rectal tube placed to manage diarrhea. Two weeks into his hospitalization, dark red liquid stool was noted in the rectal tube, and the patient was found to have a large ulcerated area in the rectum, likely caused by the tube.
Robin R. Hemphill, MD, MPH; September 2013
Admitted to the hospital after hours, a patient with a history of type A aortic dissection had his CT scan read as "no acute changes." However, the CT scan had been compared to a text report of a previous scan, rather than the images. The patient died several hours later, and autopsy revealed the dissection had progressed and ruptured.
Wendy G. Anderson, MD, MS; February 2012
An elderly man hospitalized with multiple medical conditions decided (with his family's blessing) on a DNR/DNI order. Following treatment, the patient was discharged home. Just days later a paramedic transporting the patient to the emergency department asked the family about advanced directives and they requested that "everything be done."
Ben-Tzion Karsh, PhD; March 2011
A patient requiring orthopedic follow-up after an emergency department visit missed his appointment, and a secretary canceled the referral in the electronic medical record to minimize black marks on the hospital’s 30-day referral quality scorecard. Because the primary physician did not receive notice of the cancellation, follow-up was delayed.
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
Christopher Fee, MD; February-March 2009
Interrupted during a telephone handoff, an ED physician, despite limited information, must treat a patient in respiratory arrest. The patient is stabilized and transferred to the ICU with a presumed diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia and septic shock. Later, ICU physicians obtain further history that leads to the correct diagnosis: pulmonary embolism.
- Spotlight Case
Emily S. Patterson, PhD; November 2008
Due to lack of communication during shift change, an infant's transfer to a higher level of care is delayed. The infant develops respiratory distress, prompting a call to the rapid response team and transfer to the ICU.
- Spotlight Case
Ted Eytan, MD, MS, MPH; October 2008
An elderly, non–English-speaking man with diabetes was admitted to the hospital twice in 8 days due to hypoglycemia. At discharge, the patient was instructed not to take any antidiabetic medications. In between hospitalizations, he saw his primary care physician, who restarted an antidiabetic medication.
Jill R. Scott-Cawiezell, RN, PhD; July 2008
An elderly man receiving feedings through a percutaneous enterostomy tube was prescribed intravenous total parenteral nutrition (TPN). A licensed practical nurse (LPN) mistakenly connected the TPN to the patient's enterostomy tube. His daughter (a retired nurse) asked her about it, and the RN on duty confirmed the error. The LPN disconnected the mistakenly placed (and now contaminated) line, but then prepared to attach it to the intravenous catheter. Luckily, both the patient's daughter and the RN were present and stopped her.
Nita S. Kulkarni, MD; Mark V. Williams, MD; May 2008
An elderly patient seen in his primary care physician's office was stable but had a suspected heart failure exacerbation. The PCP chose to admit the patient directly to the hospital, to avoid a long emergency department stay. While in the admitting office awaiting an available bed, the patient deteriorated.
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.
Steven R. Kayser, PharmD; February 2007
A woman admitted to the hospital for cardiac transplantation evaluation is mistakenly given warfarin despite an order to hold the dose due to an increase in her INR level.
Mary K. Goldstein, MD, MS ; February 2006
Failure to enter documentation of a DNR order causes a severely ill elderly man to be resuscitated against his wishes. Shortly thereafter, the patient's wife confirms his wishes, and within minutes, the patient dies.
Lisa I. Iezzoni, MD, MSc; December 2005
A man is discharged home with injections and written instructions on how to administer his medications. However, the nurse and pharmacist did not notice that he was blind.
- Spotlight Case
David M. Gaba, MD ; October 2004
A dyspneic patient fails to improve after being placed on high-flow oxygen. The respiratory therapist soon discovers why: the patient is mistakenly receiving compressed room air.
Mark V. Williams, MD; July 2004
A man sent for a Holter monitor inadvertently arrives at the allergy clinic and receives a skin test instead.
Michael Astion, MD, PhD; June 2004
Just before leaving for the weekend, a physician orders a test for a communicable infection. Although the result arrives and isolation signs are placed on the patient's door, none of the covering physicians are notified, and the float nurses mistakenly assume the patient is already receiving treatment.