Posted: October 17, 2012

A new report out of Johns Hopkins estimates that diagnostic errors may cause as many as 40,500 patient deaths in hospital intensive care units. The university’s patient safety experts say the number of deaths of critically ill hospital patients die with unknown medical conditions may exceed the annual number of deaths due to breast cancer in the United States. They concluded that diagnostic errors in ICUs is “alarmingly common” and that the mistakes are not only preventable but also “underappreciated.” The researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed studies that used 5,863 autopsies to detect diagnostic errors in adult ICU patients. They discovered that 28 percent of patients had at least one missed diagnosis at death. And that with one of 12 patients the diagnostic error was serious enough that it may either have caused or directly contributed to the patient’s death. Infections and vascular illnesses accounted for more than three-quarters of those fatal flaws, with heart attacks and strokes being among the most common missed ailments. Get more information about ICU errors.