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Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Report highlights growing problem of diagnostic errors

A recently released report by the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Science, indicates that while many of the patient safety initiatives undertaken here in the U.S. focus on issues like surgical errors, medication mistakes and other types of harm in hospital settings, there is at least one major medical danger that is still going largely unnoticed and unaddressed: incorrect or late diagnoses.

In fact, the report determined that the majority of patients across the U.S. will be on the receiving end of either diagnostic error at least once in their lives after visiting a doctor's office or other outpatient facility, and cited at least one estimate showing that these diagnostic errors affect roughly 12 million adult patients every year.

Have researchers developed a dialysis-like machine to treat sepsis?

Every year, millions of people around the world will fight an ultimately losing battle with sepsis. Indeed, statistics from the Mayo Clinic show that there are anywhere from 200,000 to three million cases of this condition here in the U.S. every year.

While the unfortunate reality is that modern medicine has yet to devise a truly effective treatment for this deadly condition, this may soon change thanks to the remarkable efforts of researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Questions arise over lack of transparency in UPMC mold cases

Last week, our blog discussed how recent reports have outlined how two patients who underwent heart transplant procedures at UPMC Presbyterian hospital died last October and this past June after contracting a fungal infection in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. As shocking as this was, we also discussed how these same reports revealed that a third patient is now being treated for a fungal infection contracted after a recent lung transplant.

As if things couldn't possibly get any worse, it was announced by officials at UPMC Montefiore hospital last Friday that a patient who had previously undergone a liver transplant there had also died after contracting a fungal infection.

Medical facility testing new approach to duodenoscope sterilization

Over the last year, our blog has been closely following the patient safety threat posed by contaminated duodenoscopes, which are essentially specialized endoscopes placed down the throats of patients and used to treat a variety of digestive system disorders.

To recap, the problem with duodenoscopes is their design is such that biological material can remain on their surfaces even after undergoing thorough sterilization. This, in turn, can facilitate the growth and spread of deadly infections. Indeed, medical facilities across the nation have experienced an alarmingly high number of patient deaths caused by outbreaks of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae -- CRE -- ultimately traced to tainted duodenoscopes.

Hospital negligence, mold may have caused deaths at Presby

Medical malpractice and wrongful death cases caused by hospital negligence can happen in all sorts of ways. Whether it is Legionnaire's Disease believed to be caused by drinking water, or a serial infector like David Kwiatkowski who swaps out fentanyl with saline to get high, cases of negligence in the medical community are widespread. One thing we expect more than anything is for our hospitals to be clean. Recently, it was found that mold at UPMC Presbyterian may have been the cause of at least two deaths.

Two heart transplant patients at UPMC Presby contracted mold infections and died over the past year in what is the now closed off cardiothoracic intensive care unit. A third patient, who received a lung transplant, remains hospitalized at the hospital with a mold-related infection.

GAO to investigate FDA actions around power morcellators

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made headlines last November when it strongly urged surgeons not to use power morcellators in either hysterectomies or myomectomies, and decreed black-box warnings, the highest warning level issued by the agency, would henceforth be used on the devices.  

These rather definitive actions by the FDA came on the heels of its announcement in April 2014 that power morcellators, drill-like devices that cut uterine tissue into smaller segments to be removed laparoscopically, could pose a danger to the roughly one in 350 women who have undetected cancer . Specifically, power morcellation could actually spread the malignancy throughout the abdominal cavity. 

Failures in electronic medical records software are a killer

The president's stimulus has put taxpayers behind $30 billion in electronic medical records (EMR) expenses. The money in question and the technological disasters that were born out the EMR "upgrades" have many upset, and rightly so. But you shouldn't expect to hear about these issues from doctors or the hospital administrators who employ them. This is because many of these physicians and their bosses are under a "gag clause." Gag clauses preclude medical professionals from discussing these failings. Unfortunately, poor information technology in hospitals across the country have proven to have serious, dangerous consequences for patients. And not having access to discourse amongst physicians about EMR problems is troubling.

When spinal surgery goes wrong, we can help you find answers

If you make the life-altering decision to undergo a major operation, it goes without saying that you have complete trust in your surgeon. Indeed, you trust in their abilities, you trust in their medical knowledge, and you trust in their communicating all pertinent information.

As such, when the unthinkable happens and you suffer significant -- or even permanent -- bodily harm due to a surgical error, you and your family will likely experience a host of very strong emotions, including perhaps a strong sense of betrayal.

Are medical errors being adequately investigated at VA facilities?

The first stop for medical care for many of those brave men and women who served in our nation's armed forces is one of the 150 medical centers or nearly 1,400 facilities that together comprise the Veterans Health Administration, the single largest integrated health care system in the nation. Indeed, the VA system provided care to a whopping 5.8 million veterans in 2014 alone.

Unfortunately, a recently released report by the Government Accountability Office determined that the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency that oversees all aspects of health care for U.S. vets, might be falling short when it comes to investigating adverse events.

Study: Lack of sleep doesn't necessarily affect surgeons - II

Last time, we started discussing how a group of Canadian researchers recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine examining the impact of sleep deprivation on surgical performance and how its findings are contrary to those made in what is now considered a landmark 2009 study by American researchers.

In today's post, we'll take a closer look at these findings and why they are generating considerable discussion in medical circles. 

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