WebM&M: Case Studies
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.
Have you encountered medical errors or patient safety issues? Submit your case below to help the medical community and to prevent similar errors in the future.
This Month's WebM&Ms
A 72-year-old man was diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia and ileus, and admitted to a specialized COVID care unit. A nasogastric tube (NGT) was placed, supplemental oxygen was provided, and oral feedings were... Read More
A 71-year-old man presented to his physician with rectal bleeding and pain, which was attributed to radiation proctitis following therapy for adenocarcinoma of the prostate. He subsequently developed a potentially life... Read More
This case focuses on immediate-use medication compounding in the operating room and how the process creates situations in which medication errors can occur. The commentary discusses strategies for safe perioperative compounding and the... Read More
A 48-year-old woman was placed under general anesthesia with a laryngeal mask. The anesthesiologist was distracted briefly to sign for opioid drugs in a register, and during this time,... Read More
The cases described in this WebM&M reflect fragmented care with lapses in coordination and communication as well as failure to appropriately address medication discrepancies. These two cases involve duplicate therapy errors, which have the potential to cause... Read More
All WebM&M: Case Studies (3)
A 71-year-old man presented to his physician with rectal bleeding and pain, which was attributed to radiation proctitis following therapy for adenocarcinoma of the prostate. He subsequently developed a potentially life-threatening complication of sepsis while awaiting follow up care for a spontaneous rectal perforation. The commentary addresses the importance of early identification and timely intervention in the event of treatment failure and the post-discharge follow-up programs to improve care coordination and communication during transitions of care.
A 77-year-old man was diagnosed with a rectal mass. After discussing goals of care with an oncologist, he declined surgical intervention and underwent targeted radiotherapy before being lost to follow up. The patient subsequently presented to Emergency Department after a fall at home and was found to have new metastatic lesions in both lungs and numerous enhancing lesions in the brain. Further discussions of the goals of care revealed that the patient desired to focus on comfort and on maintaining independence for as long as possible. The inpatient hospice team discussed the potential role of brain radiotherapy for palliation to meet the goal of maintaining independence. The patient successfully completed a course of central nervous system (CNS) radiation, which resulted in improved strength, energy, speech, and quality of life. This case represents a perceived delay in palliative radiation, an “error” in care. The impact of the delay was lessened by the hospice team who role modeled integration of disease directed therapy with palliative care, a departure from the historic model of separation of hospice from disease treatment.
After a breast mass was identified by a physician assistant during a routine visit, a 60-year-old woman received a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The radiology assessment was challenging due to dense breast tissue and ultimately interpreted as “probably benign” findings. When the patient returned for follow-up 5 months later, the mass had increased in size and she was referred for a biopsy. Confusion regarding biopsy scheduling led to delays and, 7 months after initial presentation, the patient was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer involving the axillary nodes and spine. The commentary discusses the diagnostic challenges of potentially discordant findings between imaging and physical exams and the importance of structured inter-professional handoffs and closed-loop referrals in reducing diagnostic delays and associated harm.