0
We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
Retry
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
Retry
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Review |

Changes in Rates of Autopsy-Detected Diagnostic Errors Over Time: A Systematic Review

Kaveh G. Shojania, MD; Elizabeth C. Burton, MD; Kathryn M. McDonald, MM; Lee Goldman, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2003;289(21):2849-2856. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2849.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Context Substantial discrepanies exist between clinical diagnoses and findings at autopsy. Autopsy may be used as a tool for quality management to analyze diagnostic discrepanies.

Objective To determine the rate at which autopsies detect important, clinically missed diagnoses, and the extent to which this rate has changed over time.

Data Sources A systematic literature search for English-language articles available on MEDLINE from 1966 to April 2002, using the search terms autopsy, postmortem changes, post-mortem, postmortem, necropsy, and posthumous, identified 45 studies reporting 53 distinct autopsy series meeting prospectively defined criteria. Reference lists were reviewed to identify additional studies, and the final bibliography was distributed to experts in the field to identify missing or unpublished studies.

Study Selection Included studies reported clinically missed diagnoses involving a primary cause of death (major errors), with the most serious being those likely to have affected patient outcome (class I errors).

Data Extraction Logistic regression was performed using data from 53 distinct autopsy series over a 40-year period and adjusting for the effects of changes in autopsy rates, country, case mix (general autopsies; adult medical; adult intensive care; adult or pediatric surgery; general pediatrics or pediatric inpatients; neonatal or pediatric intensive care; and other autopsy), and important methodological features of the primary studies.

Data Synthesis Of 53 autopsy series identified, 42 reported major errors and 37 reported class I errors. Twenty-six autopsy series reported both major and class I error rates. The median error rate was 23.5% (range, 4.1%-49.8%) for major errors and 9.0% (range, 0%-20.7%) for class I errors. Analyses of diagnostic error rates adjusting for the effects of case mix, country, and autopsy rate yielded relative decreases per decade of 19.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8%-33.8%) for major errors and 33.4% (95% [CI], 8.4%-51.6%) for class I errors. Despite these decreases, we estimated that a contemporary US institution (based on autopsy rates ranging from 100% [the extrapolated extreme at which clinical selection is eliminated] to 5% [roughly the national average]), could observe a major error rate from 8.4% to 24.4% and a class I error rate from 4.1% to 6.7%.

Conclusion The possibility that a given autopsy will reveal important unsuspected diagnoses has decreased over time, but remains sufficiently high that encouraging ongoing use of the autopsy appears warranted.

Figures in this Article

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Figures

Figure 1. Major Error Rates
Graphic Jump Location
Major error rates were generated from the regression model, setting country to United States and using 3 different autopsy rates: 5% (roughly the national average13), 37% (the median rate in the included studies), and 100%. Extrapolation to an autopsy rate of 100% minimizes the effect of clinical selection and thus provides a lower bound for the major error rate.
Figure 2. Class I Error Rates
Graphic Jump Location
Class I error rates were generated from the regression model, setting country to United States and using 3 different autopsy rates: 5% (roughly the national average13), 37% (the median rate in the included studies) and 100%. Extrapolation to an autopsy rate of 100% minimizes the effect of clinical selection and thus provides a lower bound for the class I error rate. Adjusting for the effects of study design (prospective vs retrospective) and clinician involvement in classifying errors significantly impacts estimates from earlier periods, but the adjusted and unadjusted estimates converge over time. For 2000, estimated class I error rates are virtually identical regardless of primary study design and clinician involvement in classifying errors.

Tables

References

CME
Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.

Multimedia

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

4,038 Views
227 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles
Jobs
JAMAevidence.com

Care at the Close of Life: Evidence and Experience
Autopsy, Organ or Body Donation, and Funeral Arrangements

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Original Article: Does This Patient Have Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia?

×
brightcove.createExperiences();