Patel SJ, Ipsaro A, Brady PW. Hosp Pediatr. 2022;Epub Feb 28.
Diagnostic uncertainty can arise in complex clinical scenarios. This qualitative study explored how physicians in pediatric emergency and inpatient settings mitigate diagnostic uncertainty. Participants discussed common mitigation strategies, such as employing a “diagnostic pause.” The authors also noted outstanding gaps regarding communicating diagnostic uncertainty to families.
Shafer GJ, Singh H, Thomas EJ, et al. J Perinatol. 2022;Epub Mar 4.
Patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at risk for serious patient safety threats. In this retrospective review of 600 consecutive inborn NICU admissions, researchers found that the frequency of diagnostic errors among inborn NICU patients during the first seven days of admission was 6.2%.
Vaghani V, Wei L, Mushtaq U, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:2202-2211.
Based on the Safer Dx and SPADE frameworks, researchers applied a symptom-disease pair-based electronic trigger (e-trigger) to identify patients hospitalized for stroke who had been previously discharged from the emergency department with a diagnosis of headache or dizziness in the preceding 30 days. Analyses show that the e-trigger identified missed diagnoses of stroke with a modest positive predictive value.
Horberg MA, Nassery N, Rubenstein KB, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:479-488.
Missed or delayed diagnosis of sepsis can lead to serious patient harm. This study used a Symptom-Disease Pair Analysis of Diagnostic Error (SPADE) “look-forward” analysis to measure potential misdiagnosis of sepsis in patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) with treat-and-release fluid and electrolyte disorders (FED) or altered mental status (AMS). FED and AMS were associated with a spike in sepsis hospitalizations in the 7-day period following the ED visit. The authors suggest SPADE could be used to compare sepsis diagnostic performance across institutions and regions; develop interventions for targeted subgroups; and update early warning systems for sepsis diagnosis.
Hensgens RL, El Moumni M, IJpma FFA, et al. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2020;46:1367-1374.
Missed injuries and delayed diagnoses are an ongoing problem in trauma care. This cohort study conducted at a large trauma center found that inter-hospital transfer of severely injured patients increases the risk of delayed detection of injuries. For half of these patients, the new diagnoses led to a change in treatment course. These findings highlight the importance of clinician vigilance when assessing trauma patients.
Bhat A, Mahajan V, Wolfe N. J Clin Neurosci. 2021;85:27-35.
Misdiagnosis, variation in treatment of stroke and gaps in secondary prevention in young patients can result in adverse outcomes. This article discusses the possible causes of implicit bias in stroke care in this population, the effects of bias on patient outcomes, and interventions to circumvent implicit bias.
Peyrony O, Marbeuf-Gueye C, Truong V, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2020;76:405-412.
This prospective study enrolled all patients with suspected COVID-19 who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 in order to estimate the diagnostic accuracy of patients’ characteristics and emergency physician judgement in predicting COVID-19. Findings indicate that physician clinical judgement was generally accurate and that certain patient characteristics (loss of smell, lung ultrasound findings) increase the likelihood of identifying COVID-19.
Platts-Mills TF, Nagurney JM, Melnick ER. Ann Emerg Med. 2020;75:715-720.
Clinicians commonly face uncertainty in complex care situations. The authors propose several strategies for physicians, physician groups, departments, and professional societies to integrate uncertainty into emergency medicine decision-making.
Dubosh NM, Edlow JA, Goto T, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2019;74:549-561.
Misdiagnosis of a neurologic emergency such as stroke can lead to serious morbidity or mortality. Using a large multi-state database, this study examined the likelihood of readmission or inpatient mortality among patients who were initially discharged with nonspecific diagnoses of headache or back pain and found that 0.5% of headache and 0.2% of back pain patients experienced an inpatient death or serious neurological event after ED discharge. Extrapolated to a national level, this translates to over 55,000 patients with adverse outcomes due to a missed diagnosis for headache or back pain.
Shafer G, Singh H, Suresh G. Semin Perinatol. 2019;43:151175.
This article reviews diagnostic errors occurring in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), error causes and contributing factors, and prevention strategies. NICU diagnostic errors are relatively understudied but may have long-term consequences for health and development of infants.
Ischemic stroke, which often presents with non-specific symptoms and requires time-sensitive treatment, can be a source of diagnostic error and misdiagnosis. Using a large medical malpractice claims database, this study found that nearly half of all malpractice claims involving ischemic stroke included diagnostic errors, primarily originating in the ED. The analysis found that breakdowns in the initial patient-provider encounter (e.g., history and physical examination, symptom assessment, and ordering of diagnostic tests) contributed to most malpractice claims.
Abimanyi-Ochom J, Mudiyanselage SB, Catchpool M, et al. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2019;19:174.
There are challenges to identifying and measuring diagnostic errors in healthcare settings. This systematic review found evidence that team meetings, error documentation, and trigger algorithms in various clinical settings may reduce diagnostic errors. The authors also found that while there have been numerous studies on interventions targeting diagnostic errors, few such interventions are being used in clinical settings.
Abe T, Tokuda Y, Shiraishi A, et al. Crit Care. 2019;23:202.
This retrospective study sought to determine whether timely diagnosis of the site of infection affected in-hospital mortality for sepsis. Investigators found that patients whose infection site was misdiagnosed on admission had more than twofold greater odds of dying in the hospital compared to those with the correct infection site diagnosed on admission. These results reinforce the importance of correct and timely diagnosis for sepsis outcomes.
Wright B, Faulkner N, Bragge P, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2019;6:325-334.
The hectic pace of emergency care detracts from reliability. This review examined the literature on evidence, practice, and patient perspectives regarding diagnostic error in the emergency room. A WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving a diagnostic delay in the emergency department.
Fitzsimons BT, Fitzsimons LL, Sun LR. Pediatrics. 2019;143:e20183458.
Rare diseases pose diagnostic challenges for physicians. This commentary offers insights from parents of a young child who died due to a delayed stroke diagnosis as well as from the patient's neurologist to raise awareness of childhood stroke and discuss the importance of partnership to heal from loss and advocate for improvement.
Roland D, Snelson E. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2019;104:43-48.
Clinical reasoning is a complex process that can be influenced by numerous factors. This review describes factors that influence decision-making in acute pediatric care. The authors discuss difficulty in history taking, biases, and other elements that can degrade the patient assessment required to inform appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Lawton R, Robinson O, Harrison R, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:382-388.
Risk aversion in clinical practice may lead to the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures, a form of overuse that may pose harm to patients. Experienced clinicians may be more comfortable with uncertainty and risk than less experienced providers. In this cross-sectional study, researchers surveyed doctors working in three emergency departments to understand their level of experience and used vignettes to characterize their reactions to uncertainty and risk. They found a significant association between more clinical experience and less risk aversion as well as a significant association between more experience and greater ease with uncertainty. The authors caution that they cannot draw conclusions on how these findings impact patient safety. An accompanying editorial suggests that feedback is an important mechanism for improving confidence in clinical decision-making. A WebM&M commentary discussed risks related to overdiagnosis and medical overuse.
Medford-Davis LN, Singh H, Mahajan P. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2018;65:1097-1105.
The busy and complex emergency department environment harbors pressures can that hinder diagnostic safety. This review discusses the characteristics of emergency medicine that contribute to overreliance on heuristics and susceptibility to bias in decision making. The authors highlight the need to better monitor diagnostic error in the emergency department to inform the design of improvement activities. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed diagnostic delay in the emergency department.
Bergl PA, Nanchal RS, Singh H. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018;15:903-907.
Elements of critical care can influence the reliability of diagnosis, teamwork, and care delivery. This commentary recommends areas for research to reduce diagnostic error in the intensive care unit. The authors highlight the need for intensivist involvement to define distinct roles and actions in their specialty for diagnostic improvement.
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