Missed diagnoses in trauma patients vis-à-vis significance of autopsy

Injury. 2005 Aug;36(8):976-83. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2004.09.025.


Post-mortem examination is considered to be the gold standard for the critique of medical practice, providing a quality control tool for the retrospective evaluation of diagnoses and treatment. Performing autopsies also facilitates new insight about the pathogenesis of disease and effects of therapy, gives feedback to clinical research protocols, provides epidemiological information and occasionally helps to console and reassure grieving families that death was inevitable. Its significance becomes paramount in cases of missed diagnosis in trauma-related deaths. The true incidence of missed diagnoses in trauma-related deaths is unknown, because autopsy is conducted in only about 50% of injury-related deaths. Few studies have documented the frequency of missed diagnoses leading to deaths specifically in the trauma ICU population. The present study is an attempt to evaluate the incidence and nature of missed injuries and complications in trauma-related deaths given an autopsy rate of close to 100%. This study also sought to identify the primary factors contributing to each missed injury. However, the study is in no way intended to assigning blame to human or system errors. Rather, it is focussed specifically on the issue of whether autopsy can be useful to provide feedback in identifying clinical problems of trauma patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy*
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Traumatology / standards
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology*