Study Reveals Startling Hospital ICU Misdiagnosis Statistics

When a Patient Dies in an Intensive Care Unit, There Is a 28 Percent Chance That a Diagnosis Was Missed

When John Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers examined diagnosis errors in hospital intensive care units (ICUs), they expected to find some room for improvement in patient care. However, the lead author of the study, Dr. Bradford Winters, described the results as "surprising and alarming."

For every four patients who die in a hospital ICU, one suffers a misdiagnosis near the time of death. Worse yet, when an ICU patient dies, there is an 8 percent chance that a diagnosis error caused or contributed to the death.

The data is particularly troubling because patients in intensive care units are already in a weakened state of health. Doctors should be particularly careful when diagnosing ICU patients because a mistake could easily end up costing the patient his or her life. Yet, remarkably, ICU patients are victims of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose 50 percent more often than other hospital patients, according to the John Hopkins research.

The Root of the Diagnosis Error Problem

Researchers pinpointed the most common health issues involved in ICU misdiagnoses:

  • Heart attack
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Aspergillosis, a deadly fungal infection

The above conditions are at issue in one-third of all ICU diagnosis mistakes. If intensive care unit physicians are looking for ways to improve patient safety, brushing up on the symptoms associated with these particular conditions would be a good place to start. Also, ICU doctors should be ordering tests when there is a possibility that one of the mentioned ailments is a factor.

There are understandable challenges for doctors making ICU rounds. Winters says they are "bombarded with more than 7,000 independent pieces of information each day." That's a lot of information to process, but hospitals can improve patient safety by developing better processes and increasing their medical staffs of physicians, nurses and assistants.

Families of Fatal Misdiagnosis Victims Often Face Sizable Challenges

When someone dies due to an ICU physician's failure to diagnose his or her health condition, in theory, the surviving family members are able to recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, a patient's cause of death usually isn't obvious. Further, when a doctor's mistake did cause or contribute to a patient's wrongful death, the hospital likely isn't going to voluntarily disclose that its negligence is to blame. In reality, the hospital will vehemently deny liability.

When a family suspects that the death of a loved one resulted from medical negligence, it is crucial to contact an experienced attorney. Medical malpractice lawsuits are incredibly challenging and the best opportunity for success lies with the help of a lawyer who has a long history of helping wronged patients and their families.

The law firm of Tolmage, Peskin, Harris, Falick has more than 45 years of experience helping victims obtain compensation for harm they've unfairly suffered. We offer obligation-free consultations to potential clients, so contact us to speak with an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney - at no cost to you.

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