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
This case involves a procedural sedation error in a 3-year-old patient who presented to the... Read More
This Spotlight Case highlights two cases of falls in older patients in nursing homes. The commentary discusses how risk factors... Read More
This case represents a known but generally preventable complication of calcium chloride infusion, eventually necessitating surgical... Read More
All WebM&M: Case Studies (58)
- Communication Improvement(24)
- Quality Improvement Strategies(23)
- Human Factors Engineering(21)
- Education and Training(16)
- Error Reporting and Analysis(9)
- Culture of Safety(4)
- Legal and Policy Approaches(3)
- Technologic Approaches(3)
- Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE)(2)
- Policies and Operations(2)
- Specialization of Care(2)
- Computerized Decision Support(1)
- Clear filter(109)
- Device-Related Complications(58)
- Medical Complications(11)
- Surgical Complications(11)
- Nonsurgical Procedural Complications(9)
- Medication Safety(8)
- Discontinuities, Gaps, and Hand-Off Problems(4)
- Diagnostic Errors(2)
- Interruptions and distractions(2)
- Alert fatigue(1)
- MRI safety(1)
- Psychological and Social Complications(1)
- Second victims(1)
This Spotlight Case highlights two cases of falls in older patients in nursing homes. The commentary discusses how risk factors for falls should be considered in care planning and approaches to fall prevention in long-term care settings.
This patient with recently diagnosed adenocarcinoma of the esophagus underwent esophagoscopy with endoscopic ultrasound, which was complicated by thoracic esophageal perforation. The perforation was endoscopically closed during the procedure. However, there was a lack of clear communication regarding the operator’s confidence in the success of endoscopic closure and their recommendations for the modality and timing of follow-up imaging, which ultimately led to significant delays in patient care. The commentary discusses the importance of clear communication and hand-offs between proceduralists and other healthcare team members.
A 48-year-old obese man with a history of obstructive sleep apnea was placed under general anesthesia for corneal surgery. On completion of the operation, the patient was transferred to a motorized gurney to extubate him in a sitting position because the operating room (OR) table was too narrow. However, while the team was moving him from the OR table to the gurney, a nurse inadvertently pulled on the anesthetic machine hoses. The endotracheal tube became dislodged and the patient could not be ventilated. The commentary discusses considerations for regional versus general anesthesia and appropriate steps for extubation in obese and other high-risk patients, including the use of high flow nasal oxygen.
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 withheld. Early in his hospital stay, the patient developed hyperactive delirium and pulled out his NGT. Haloperidol was ordered for use as needed (“prn”) and the nurse was asked to replace the NGT and confirm placement by X-ray. The bedside and charge nurses had difficulty placing the NGT and the X-ray confirmation was not done. Eight hours later, the patient became hypotensive and hypoxemic and emergent CT revealed a gastric perforation. The patient was transferred to the intensive care unit and ultimately required endotracheal intubation with mechanical ventilation. The commentary discusses the complications associated with nasogastric tube insertion, assessing and treating acute agitation secondary to delirium, and the importance of clear communication during shift changes and handoffs.
This case describes a 20-year-old woman was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and occlusive thrombus in the right brachial vein surrounding a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line (type, gauge, and length of time the PICC had been in place were not noted). The patient was discharged home but was not given any supplies for cleaning the PICC line, education regarding the signs of PICC line infection, or referral to home health services. During follow-up several days after discharge, the patient’s primary care provider noted that the PICC dressing was due to be changed and needed to be flushed, but the outpatient setting lacked the necessary supplies. An urgent referral to home health was placed, but the agency would be unable to attend to the patient for several days. The primary care provider changed the dressing, and the patient was referred to the emergency department for assessment. The commentary summarizes the risks of PICC lines, the role of infection prevention practices during the insertion and care of PICC lines, and the importance of patient education and skill assessment prior to discharge home with a PICC line.
An 18-month-old girl presented to the Emergency Department (ED) after being attacked by a dog and sustaining multiple penetrating injuries to her head and neck. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to establish intravenous access, an intraosseous (IO) line was placed in the patient’s proximal left tibia to facilitate administration of fluids, blood products, vasopressors, and antibiotics. In the operating room, peripheral intravenous (IV) access was eventually obtained after which intraoperative use of the IO line was restricted to a low-rate fluid infusion. An hour into the operation, the anesthesiologist found her left calf to be warm and tense, presumably due to fluid extravasation from the IO line. The IO line was removed, and the Orthopedic Surgery service was consulted intraoperatively due to concern for acute compartment syndrome. Signs of compartment syndrome eventually resolved without any surgical intervention. The commentary summarizes complications associated with IO lines, the importance of anticipating procedural complications, and methods to identify the signs and symptoms of acute compartment syndrome.
A 6-week-old infant underwent a craniotomy and excision of abnormal brain tissue for treatment of hemimegalencephaly and epilepsy. A right femoral central venous catheter and an arterial catheter were inserted, as well as 22-gauge intravenous catheter inserted into the external jugular vein, which was covered with surgical drapes. During the surgical procedure, the neurosurgeon adjusted the patient’s head, displacing the external jugular intravenous catheter into the subcutaneous tissue. The catheter’s dislodgment went unnoticed due to its position underneath the surgical drapes. The commentary discusses the importance intraoperative monitoring of intravenous catheters and the use of surgical safety checklists to improve communication and prevent surgical complications.
A 56-year-old female received a digital tourniquet around the base of her left big toe during an ablation and excision of a deformed in-grown toenail. After the procedure, a dressing was applied and the patient was discharged 4 hours later. During the follow-up visit two-days later, the dressing was removed and revealed that the tourniquet was still in place and constricting the toe. The toe became necrotic and developed gangrene, and was amputated. The commentary discusses the safe use of digital tourniquets, the importance of including tourniquets in the surgical count process, and ensuring tourniquets are removed in a timely manner.