The results from a recent study undertaken by the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality that reviewed 31 studies that included 5,863 autopsies involving patients who died in hospital Intensive Care Units found that 28% of the patients who died had a least one missed diagnosis at the time of their deaths.
The missed diagnoses were found to be serious enough to have either directly contributed to or caused the patients’ deaths in 8% of the patients. Had the missed diagnoses been known, they would likely have resulted in different treatment. More than three-fourths of the missed diagnoses that resulted in deaths involved infections and vascular problems such as strokes and heart attacks.
Four medical conditions were responsible for one-third of the deaths due to diagnostic errors: heart attack; pulmonary embolism; pneumonia; and aspergillosis (a fungal infection that most commonly affects individuals with a weakened immune system).
The study conservatively calculated that about 40,500 critically ill patients in hospital ICUs in the United States die each year with an unknown medical condition that may have contributed to or caused their deaths, which is about the same number of deaths that are caused by breast cancer each year.
The study also found that hospital ICU patients faced twice the risk of suffering a potentially fatal diagnostic error than patients treated in other areas of hospitals.
In addition to the deaths related to diagnostic errors in ICUs, such diagnostic errors often result in hospital stays that must be extended, surgical procedures that would otherwise be unnecessary, and reduced quality of life due to the errors.
The most critically ill patients in hospitals are usually treated in the Intensive Care Units, where care is supposed to be more intensive and specialized in order to care for the more seriously sick patients. If the ICUs fail to timely and appropriately diagnose the medical conditions of their patients or fail to provide timely and appropriate medical care to their patients, dire consequences, including death, may occur.
If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed or late-diagnosed in a hospital ICU or in another unit in a hospital, the error/mistake may be due to medical negligence and the hospital may be held responsible for your injuries and the additional medical expenses associated with the additional medical care required due to the hospital mistakes.
It is often difficult or impossible for critically ill ICU patients or their families to determine if a medical error or a medical mistake was a cause of the patient’s declining health while in the ICU. Most ICU personnel will not voluntarily disclose their mistakes to you or to your family, even if the patient died as a result of the errors. The assistance of a medical malpractice attorney who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you may be essential in determining what happened, who is responsible for what happened, and whether you have a viable claim for medical malpractice.
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