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Medical errors hurt 18% of hospital patients

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed some troubling statistics. Nearly one fifth (18%) of all patients were injured by medical mistakes during their stay in a hospital. "Our findings validate concern raised by patient-safety experts in the United States and Europe that harm resulting from medical care remains very common," researchers admitted.

In almost 3% of the cases in the study, the injury resulted in or contributed to the death of the patient. Another 3% resulted in a permanent injury, and 8.5% were life-threatening. Nearly 43% of the injuries -- or "harms" as the researchers called them -- required some intervention by doctors or nurses and resulted in an extended stay in the hospital.

The report was particularly disturbing since it indicates little progress has been made since the 1999 Institute of Medicine study showing that medical mistakes were responsible for more than 98,000 deaths and more than one million injuries each year. That report was considered a "wake up call" to hospitals, which were supposed to take greater steps in preventing such errors. The Institute of Medicine had set a goal of a 50% reduction during a 5-year period.

SOURCE: "Temporal Trends in Rates of Patient Harm Resulting from Medical Care," Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, MPH, et al. New England Journal of Medicine 2010; 363:2124-2134 November 25, 2010

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