Thousands of children die unnecessarily in hospitals because of medical errors stemming from patient-safety lapses, and the extra cost of care for pediatric patients exposed to 20 types of safety problems exceeds $1 billion annually, according to a study in the June Pediatrics. The study confirmed that medical errors are a significant problem for children as well as adults, and it identified the very young and the very poor as more vulnerable than children in general. Researchers from the department of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said the figures on patient deaths were conservative. The methods used to identify 4,483 unnecessary deaths from an analysis of 5.7 million records in 2000 "can detect only a small portion of the types of patient safety events that actually happen in hospitals," according to the article.
More than 51,000 cases of medical error were discovered, and four of the 20 types of treatment failure occurred at a rate exceeding 100 per 10,000 discharges. Those were failure to rescue a patient suffering from a threatening event, postoperative sepsis, and obstetric trauma with and without the use of instrumentation. The study also recorded the financial cost of each of the 20 types of treatment failure. For example, each case of sepsis resulted in an average of 26 extra hospital days and $118,000 in extra charges. Read the abstract. -- by John Morrissey