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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Stephen Stewart, MBChB, PhD; July 2017
Hospitalized for pneumonia, a woman with a history of alcohol abuse and depression was found unconscious on the medical ward. A toxicology panel revealed her blood alcohol level was elevated at 530 mg/dL. A search of the ward revealed several empty containers of alcoholic foam sanitizer, which the patient confessed to ingesting.
Gurpreet Dhaliwal, MD; December 2009
Physicians confuse the terminology on a preliminary radiology report and diagnose a woman with foot and ankle pain as having a low-risk case of superficial vein thrombosis, rather than the more dangerous deep vein thrombosis she actually had.
William W. Churchill, MS, RPh; Karen Fiumara, PharmD; April 2009
A powerful anti-clotting medication is ordered for a patient admitted for coronary intervention. Due to a forcing function in the computer order entry system, the intern enters an arbitrary maintenance infusion rate, assuming that the pharmacy will fix it if it is wrong. The pharmacy dispenses it as written, and the nurse administers it—underdosing the patient by a factor of 40.
Hedy Cohen, RN, BSN, MS; February-March 2009
New medication administration policies at one hospital cause a patient to receive two doses of her daily medication within a few hours, when only one dose was intended.
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.
- Spotlight Case
Peter Lindenauer, MD, MSc; November 2006
A woman with end stage renal disease and heart disease on anticoagulation receives a pneumonia vaccination that causes a large hematoma.
Russ Cucina, MD, MS; April 2005
Thinking that the patient's glycemic control had spontaneously improved (and not realizing that the patient was continuing to receive long-acting insulin injections), a physician discontinues daily glucose checks and insulin sliding scale orders. Four days later, the patient is found unresponsive and hypoglycemic.
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.
Michael Leonard, MD; March 2005
Surgeons cancel revascularization surgery on an elderly man so that he can first undergo cardiac catheterization. The next morning, the patient is taken to the OR anyway and given general anesthesia.
- 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.
Peter Lindenauer, MD, MSc; October 2004
A surgical patient and a neurosurgical patient are scheduled to be moved to different beds, the second taking the first's spot. However, the move is documented electronically before it occurs physically, and a medication error nearly ensues.
- Spotlight Case
Haya R. Rubin, MD, PhD; Vera T. Fajtova, MD; May 2004
To achieve tight glucose control, a hospitalized diabetes patient is placed on an insulin drip. Prior to minor surgery, he is made NPO and becomes severely hypoglycemic.
Harold S. Kaplan, MD; February 2004
Blood typing tubes for a married couple brought to an ED after a trauma are labeled with the opposite stickers. By coincidence, the wife's blood type was already on file. An alert blood-bank technologist catches the mistake.
Marilynn M. Rosenthal, PhD; July 2003
An anxious patient awaiting ambulatory surgery is mistakenly put on the wrong operating table.
Hilary M. Babcock, MD; Victoria J. Fraser, MD; June 2003
Antibiotics continued in a patient with no clear source of infection for 3 weeks results in hospital-acquired superinfections.