News: Few diagnostic mistakes found in pediatric ICU study

CDI Strategies - Volume 16, Issue 17

Only an estimated 1.5% of diagnoses at four pediatric intensive care units (PICU) were incorrect, according to new research presented at the Critical Care Congress. Earlier data suggested that number could be much higher, according to MedPage Today.

The new study retrospectively looked at nearly 900 randomly selected patients treated at the four studied PICUs over a one-year period, primarily relying on chart documentation. The study found that 13 patients had a diagnostic error within a week of their admission. Earlier studies estimated an error rate of 8%-25%, according to Christina Cifra, MD, MS, from the University of Iowa, who presented the findings at the Critical Care Congress.

In addition to the overall error rate, the researchers found that:

  • Respiratory and infectious conditions accounted for most of the missed diagnoses (31% each)
  • In 46% of cases, providers missed a diagnosis that should have been “obvious due to a ‘suggestive history’ ”

The researchers suggested that two factors increased the risk of error: atypical presentation and diagnostic uncertainty on admission.

Though the new study’s findings are certainly positive, Cifra told MedPage Today that the rate is probably an underestimate and that, even with a low error rate, it could translate into hundreds of pediatric patients having diagnostic errors per year.

Editor’s note: To read MedPage Today’s coverage of this research, click here.

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