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 10
- Culture of Safety 2
- Education and Training 7
- Human Factors Engineering 5
- Legal and Policy Approaches 3
- Logistical Approaches 2
- Quality Improvement Strategies 10
- Teamwork 1
- Clinical Information Systems 3
- Device-related Complications 2
- Diagnostic Errors 2
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems 7
- Failure to rescue 1
- Interruptions and distractions 1
- Medical Complications 4
- Medication Safety 3
- Psychological and Social Complications 1
- Surgical Complications
- Internal Medicine 7
- 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.
Lina Bergman, RN, MSc, and Wendy Chaboyer, RN, PhD; February 2019
Following surgery under general anesthesia, a boy was extubated and brought to postanesthesia care unit (PACU). Due to the patient's age and length of the surgery, the PACU anesthesiologist ordered continuous pulse-oximetry monitoring for 24 hours. Deemed stable to leave the PACU, the boy was transported to the regular floor. When the nurse went to place the patient on pulse oximetry, she realized he was markedly hypoxic. She administered oxygen by face mask, but he became bradycardic and hypotensive and a code blue was called.
- 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.
- Spotlight Case
Elliott K. Main, MD; November 2016
After an emergency cesarean delivery, a woman had progressive tachycardia and persistent hypertension. A CT scan showed no evidence of pulmonary embolism, but repeat blood tests showed a dangerously low hemoglobin level and markedly elevated liver enzyme levels. She was taken back to the operating room and found to have postpartum hemorrhage.
Kirsten Engel, MD; July-August 2013
After changing the type of knee repair being done mid-procedure, a surgeon verbally informed the patient of drastically different discharge instructions in the post-anesthesia care unit but did not provide specific written instructions of the changed procedure or recovery plan to her or her husband.
Matt M. Kurrek, MD, and Rebecca S. Twersky, MD, MPH; August 2012
Following spinal anesthesia for an outpatient procedure, a patient is discharged and instructed to take sitz baths with tepid water. The patient misunderstood the instructions, using scalding water instead, and residual anesthesia blunted his response to the hot water.
Hugo Q. Cheng, MD; June 2012
Following surgery for hip fracture, an elderly man with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease developed worsening shortness of breath. At this hospital, the orthopedic surgery service has hospitalists comanage its patients. Inadequate communication between the services led to a delay in diagnosing the patient with pneumonia and initiating treatment.
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.
Edward A. Bittner, MD, PhD; February 2011
Following elective anterior cervical discectomy, a patient developed tightness and swelling in his neck. Later, the patient stood up, turned blue, and fell to the floor unconscious. An obvious neck hematoma was compromising his airway, and the patient required an emergency tracheostomy and CPR.
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.
Angela C. Joseph, RN, MSN, CURN; November 2006
Following elective surgery, a man with benign prostatic hypertrophy began having trouble with urination. Delay in addressing this issue caused discomfort and the need for catheterization and antibiotics.
James A. Yates, MD; March 2006
A man undergoes plastic surgery at an outpatient center and winds up with a complication requiring prolonged stay in the ICU.
- Spotlight Case
Nils Kucher, MD; January 2006
Following reconstructive surgery to her hand, a woman suffers sudden cardiopulmonary arrest. After successful resuscitation, further review revealed that she had a pulmonary embolism and that she had received no venous thromboembolism prophylaxis.
Lorri A. Lee, MD; June 2005
A woman undergoes surgery and immediately has blurry vision, mistakenly attributed to ointment. Two weeks later, she returns complaining of blindness in one eye.
Tracy Minichiello, MD; March 2005
Despite a box on the admission form warning against using blood thinners and epidural anesthesia together, a patient admitted for elective surgery receives both, and becomes permanently paralyzed.
Stephen G. Pauker, MD; Susan P. Pauker, MD; May 2004
Owing to privacy concerns, a nurse draws the drapes on a 3-year-old child in recovery following surgery, and unfortunately does not realize the child is in distress until loud inspiratory stridor is heard.
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.
Andre R. Campbell, MD; April 2003
Laparoscopic colostomy completed in reverse induces total bowel obstruction.