HOSPITALS: Are we sure they’re places where people go to get better?

Hospitals are dangerous places, as new research has confirmed. Well over 30,000 patients die in American hospitals every year from some medical mishap, while 167,000 will suffer a serious injury that will at the very least extend their hospital stay.

And the bad news – if that was not bad enough – is that the picture is far worse than the one presented, researchers who produced the study have said.

The most dangerous procedure was vaginal delivery by forceps and other surgical instruments, with over 22 per cent of all procedures resulting in injury. The second highest was caused by vaginal birth without forceps, with nearly 9 per cent of all procedures injuring the patient. But postoperative sepsis – which occurs in 1.12 per cent of all patients – had the biggest impact, resulting in an extended hospital stay of an additional 11 days.

This alarming picture, prepared by researchers from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is a ‘best guesstimate’ based on 7.45 million discharge records collected from 994 hospitals across 28 states in the USA during 2000.

As the researchers say, nobody knows the true picture, and their own evaluation is a very conservative one compared with previous research studies, including one that estimated that medical mistakes cause 98,000 deaths a year in American hospitals.

The researchers concede that the situation is far worse than the one they have reported – but just how worse is anyone’s guess.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 290: 1868-74).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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