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Intensive care unit common place for fatal misdiagnosis

When someone is admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital, they assume that they are in good hands. While their injuries are often very severe, one would believe that healing could begin in the unit. One meta-analysis by researchers with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that the intensive care unit may itself pose a danger to its patients.

According to the data analysis, the rate of misdiagnosis in hospital intensive care units is alarmingly high. The misdiagnosis is really a failure to diagnose or catch life-threatening health issues, including heart attack and stroke. In fact, misdiagnosis amongst intensive care unit patients was 50 percent more common than it was in the rest of the hospital.

Heart attacks were the most commonly "undiagnosed" illness with three-fourths of the misdiagnoses that led to fatalities. Next on the list was pneumonia and aspergillosis -- a deadly fungal condition that targets individuals whose immune systems have already been weakened.

What makes this phenomenon hard to believe is the fact that those lying in the intensive care unit are already hooked up to some of the most advanced health monitoring devices. Nurses are everywhere, constantly checking patients who undergo more testing than almost any other patient. "These patients are under a microscope, and yet clinicians still missed these diagnoses," said the lead author of the study, Dr. Bradford Winters.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Alarming Rate of Errors in the ICU," Christine Russell, Aug. 28, 2012

If you have lost a loved one due to a failure to diagnose, our North Carolina medical malpractice page provides information that can help you assert your rights.

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