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Preventable deaths in patients admitted from emergency department
  1. T-C Lu,
  2. C-L Tsai,
  3. C-C Lee,
  4. P C-I Ko,
  5. Z-S Yen,
  6. A Yuan,
  7. S-C Chen,
  8. W-J Chen
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Zui-Shen Yen
 Department of Emergency Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, No.7, Chung-Shan South Road, Taipei 100, Taiwan; zuishen{at}


Background: There is limited data about how appropriate medical care is in the emergency department (ED).

Objectives: To investigate the rate and types of preventable deaths among patients with early mortality after emergency admission from the ED.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed charts of early mortality (defined as mortality which occurred within 24 hours after admission from the ED) over a 3 year period. Those patients with terminal cancer or out of hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) at presentation were excluded. Two independent assessors reviewed each eligible chart and determined whether early mortality was preventable. Any disagreements were resolved through discussion between the investigators. A mortality event was considered preventable if actions or missed actions were identified that would have prevented the death. The types of preventability were categorised as misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and inappropriate medical management. Interrater reliability in the initial determination was assessed using Cohen κ statistic.

Results: Over a 3 year period, 210 early mortality cases were identified. Excluding patients with terminal cancer or OHCA, the rate of preventable deaths was 25.8% (32/124). The types of preventability were inappropriate medical management (17 patients), delayed diagnosis (eight), and misdiagnosis (seven). There was good agreement between assessors with a Cohen κ statistic of 0.81.

Conclusions: Preventable deaths in emergency admitted patients with early mortality are not uncommon. Analysis and identification of preventability early mortality by using a chart based method may be used as a quality assurance index in emergency medical care.

  • ED, emergency department
  • EP, emergency physician
  • ICU, intensive care unit
  • OHCA, out of hospital cardiac arrest
  • preventable deaths
  • medical errors
  • emergency medicine

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  • Funding: none

  • Competing interests: none declared