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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Jeanna Blitz, MD; November 2018
When patients in two cases did not receive complete preanesthetic evaluation, problems with intubation ensued. In the first case, an anesthesiologist went to evaluate a morbidly obese patient scheduled for hysteroscopy. As the patient was donning her hospital gown behind a closed curtain, he waited but left without performing the preoperative assessment because the morning surgery list was overbooked and he had many other patients to see. Once in the operating room, he discovered on chart review that the woman had a history of gastroesophageal reflux. She could not be intubated, and a supraglottic airway was placed. In the second case, an elderly man with a tumor mass at the base of his tongue was scheduled for a biopsy. On examination, the anesthesiologist could not see much of the mass with the patient's mouth maximally open and tongue sticking out, and he couldn't locate the patient's head and neck CT to further evaluate the mass. The surgeon arrived late and did not communicate with the anesthesiologist about the patient. After inducing general anesthesia, laryngoscopy and intubation proved extremely difficult as the mass obscured the view of the larynx. A second anesthesiologist was called, and together they were able to intubate the patient with a fiberoptic bronchoscope.
- Spotlight Case
Ifedayo Kuye, MD, MBA, and Chanu Rhee, MD, MPH; October 2018
Admitted with generalized weakness, nausea, and low blood pressure, an elderly man was given IV fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics. Laboratory test results revealed a mildly elevated white count, acute kidney injury, and elevated liver function tests. The patient was admitted to the medical ICU with a presumed diagnosis of septic shock. His blood pressure continued to trend downward. While reviewing the emergency department test results, the ICU resident noticed the patient's troponin level was markedly elevated and his initial ECG revealed T-wave inversions. A repeat ECG in the ICU showed obvious ST segment elevations, diagnostic of an acute myocardial infarction. The resident realized that the patient's low blood pressure was likely due to the myocardial infarction, not septic shock. He underwent urgent cardiac catheterization and was found to have complete occlusion of the right coronary artery, for which a stent was placed.
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.
- Spotlight Case
Susan Barbour, RN, MS, FNP; December 2010
Admitted to the hospital with right-hip and left-arm fractures, an elderly woman remained on the same bed from the emergency department for nearly 16 hours and developed a moderate-sized, stage 2 pressure ulcer.
Baha Sibai, MD; June 2010
A woman with chronic hypertension developed undiagnosed preeclampsia during pregnancy with twins. At 38 weeks, she experienced respiratory and cardiac arrest. Although she eventually recovered, the infants were stillborn.
Andrew S. Dunn, MD; April 2010
An elderly woman with a history of mitral valve replacement with a mechanical prosthesis was admitted to the hospital for evaluation of abdominal pain. Although an order was written to stop her blood thinner and restart it 48 hours after the procedure, the medication was not restarted.
Gregory J. Jurkovich, MD; May 2009
After an hour of failed resuscitative efforts, a woman who collapsed in a market is pronounced dead in the emergency department (ED). Only later do the paramedics and physician discover a small bullet in the patient's chest.
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.
Clarence H. Braddock III, MD, MPH; November 2008
A woman with diabetes is admitted to a teaching hospital in July. An intern, who received training at a hospital where only paper orders were used, mistakenly chose the wrong form for the insulin order. As a result, the insulin dose was not adjusted for the patient's NPO (nothing by mouth) status, and she became unresponsive.
David L. Feldman, MD, MBA; May 2008
Prior to surgery, an anesthesiologist and surgical physician assistant noted a patient's allergy to IV contrast dye, but no order was written. During a time out before the procedure, an operative nurse raised concern about the allergy, but the attending anesthesiologist was not present and the resident did not speak up.
Richard A. Smith, DDS; July-August 2007
A patient underwent tooth extraction, but awoke from anesthesia and found that the wrong two teeth had been removed.
Donna L. Washington, MD, MPH; January 2004
A triage nurse instructed by a physician to immediately bring a febrile child, who was possibly dehydrated, to the treatment area is stopped by the charge nurse, citing overcrowding. The parents seek treatment elsewhere; upon arrival, the child is in full arrest.
Robert S. Wigton, MD; October 2003
Misplacement of an NG tube sends charcoal into the lung; the patient dies of complications.
Vanessa M. Givens, MD; Gary H. Lipscomb, MD; May 2003
A woman is given methotrexate prematurely for suspected ectopic pregnancy and ultimately has salpingectomy.
- Spotlight Case
Adrienne G. Randolph, MD, MSc ; May 2003
An infant codes due to pulmonary emboli after a central line flush.