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 2
- Education and Training 1
- Error Reporting and Analysis 3
- Quality Improvement Strategies 4
- Specialization of Care 1
- Technologic Approaches 1
- Diagnostic Errors
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 1
- Delirium 1
- Medication Safety 2
- Spotlight Case
Anna Parks, MD, and Margaret C. Fang, MD, MPH ; March 2018
One day after reading only the first line of a final ultrasound result (which stated that the patient had a thrombosis), an intern reported to the ICU team that the patient had a DVT. Because she had postoperative bleeding, the team elected to place an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter rather than administer anticoagulants to prevent a pulmonary embolism (PE). The next week, a new ICU team discussed the care plan and questioned the IVC filter. The senior resident reviewed the radiology records and found the ultrasound report actually stated the thrombosis was in a superficial vein with low risk for PE, which meant that the correct step in management of this patient's thrombosis should have been surveillance.
Christopher M. Lehman, MD; May 2017
In the emergency department, an older man with multiple medical conditions was found to have evidence of acute kidney injury and an elevated serum potassium level. However, the blood sample was hemolyzed, which can alter the reading. Although the patient was admitted and a repeat potassium level was ordered, the physician did not institute treatment for hyperkalemia. Almost immediately after the laboratory called with a panic result indicating a dangerously high potassium level, the patient went into cardiac arrest.
- Spotlight Case
Daniel J. Morgan, MD, MS, and Andrew Foy, MD; March 2017
Brought to the emergency department from a nursing facility with confusion and generalized weakness, an older woman was found to have an elevated troponin level but no evidence of ischemia on her ECG. A consulting cardiologist recommended treating the patient with three anticoagulants. The next evening, she became acutely confused and a CT scan revealed a large intraparenchymal hemorrhage with a midline shift.
Thomas B. Newman, MD, MPH, and M. Jeffrey Maisels, MB, BCh, DSc; March 2014
Following delivery and successful phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia, an infant developed anemia over the next few weeks. Found to have Rh hemolytic disease, the infant was admitted to the hospital for blood transfusion and close monitoring.
Reza Alaghehbandan, MD, MSc, and Stephen S. Raab, MD; March 2013
A woman with abdominal pain, bloating, and weight loss went to her primary physician, who ordered imaging and a biopsy. Lymph node pathology was reported as Castleman disease. A specialist felt the presentation and test results were atypical for this diagnosis. Further testing revealed adult-onset celiac disease.
- Spotlight Case
James L. Rudolph, MD, SM; May 2009
An elderly woman hospitalized for pneumonia becomes disoriented during hospitalization. Even though the patient was never confused at baseline, doctors attribute it to "senile dementia" and place her in restraints.
Melvin P. Weinstein, MD; January 2008
Blood culture results on a man with chronic health problems revealed Corynebacterium spp. One month later, the patient became ill, and cultures again revealed Corynebacterium. The physician who received the result was unfamiliar with the patient, assumed that this finding was a contaminant, and took no action. Three weeks later, the patient was admitted and diagnosed with subacute bacterial endocarditis.
Edward L. Kaplan, MD; February 2007
In the urgent care clinic, a 5-year-old with fever and sore throat undergoes a rapid strep test, which is negative. Later, the child seems worse, and the father takes her to the ED, where another rapid strep test is strongly positive for group A streptococcal infection.