It’s Time To Address ‘Alarm Fatigue’ At Our Hospitals


Posted on 19th March 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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So-called “alarm fatigue,” the phenomenon where nurse are so inundated with various alarms that they tune them out, has allegedly led to brain damage and death for some hospital patients. It is a growing, and frightening, trend.

The ECRI Institute, a nonprofit health care research group, teamed up with The Boston Globe for an investigation into alarm fatigue. The story, “Patient Alarms Often Unheard, Unheeded,” was published in February by The Globe, and it did an analysis based on Food and Drug Administration data. It attributed 200 hospital-patient deaths to problems with alarms that monitor the heart and breathing.

Simply put, the problem is that there are so many alarms that nurses are supposed to be paying attention to in hospitals that they become desensitized to them, tuning them out.

Therefore, patients who have flatlined or are suffering some other fatal malady are left to die, even as their monitors beep and signal the nurses’ station. 

In one case the family of Richard Chamoun is suing. He sustained serious brain damage, and died a month later, while he was in the hospital recovering from a quadruple heart bypass. He had been taken off a cardiac monitor for a half hour while nurses bathed him, and they did not realize he was in ventricular fibrillation, according to the American Association for Justice.

The ECRI Institute put out its own press release in March about “alarm issues,” citing The Globe story, that have “resulted in patient harm and death.” The release called alarm fatigue “a pervasive problem at most hospitals,” and the institute is apparently suggesting some ways to solve the problem.

Let’s not wait too long to address this issue.


Brain-Injured Wisconsin Boy And His Mother Win $23.3 Million In Medical Malpractice Case


Posted on 29th May 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A Wisconsin jury has awarded $23.3 million in a medical malpractice case involving a boy who suffered brain damage, and now has cerebral palsy, after a doctor delivered him with forceps five years ago, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Milwaukee County jury rendered the verdict last Thursday against Dr. Donald Baccus and the Injury Patients and Families Compensation Fund on behalf of plaintiffs Laron Birmingham, 5 years old, and his mother Kishia Lee. But the panel cleared St. Joseph Regional Medical Center of any negligence in the case.

Baccus’s attorney told the Journal Sentinel that he plans to appeal the verdict.

During the trial, which began May 10, the plaintiffs argued that because Lee had prolonged labor and was having other problems in May 2005, Baccus should have performed a Cesarian section delivery.

Baccus didn’t do the C-section, but instead had a medical resident deliver Yaron using forceps, and that instrument injured the newborn’s brain.

As a result of that brain damage, Laron had cerebral palsy, and will never be able to live on his own or get a job, according to testimony at the trial.

The award will compensate Laron for his past and future medical bills; his pain A Wisconsin jury has awarded $23.3 million in a medical malpractice case involving a boy who suffered brain damage, and now has cerebral palsy, after a doctor delivered him with forceps five years ago, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Low Umbilical Cord pH Levels Linked To Brain Damage, Cerebral Palsy In Newborns


Posted on 18th May 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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New research has found that babies who are born with high acidity in their umbilical cords appear to be at a higher risk for cerebral palsy, brain damage and infant death.

The study’s findings, out of research done at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital in England, were reported online by the journal BMJ. 

 When a baby doesn’t receive adequate oxygen during delivery, its umbilical cord blood pH declines. This condition, called hypoxia, is the most common cause of brain damage, mainly among premature and very tiny babies, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. But there had not been any direct connection established between a low pH reading in umbilical cord blood and complications like brain damage.

For this research, Dr. Gemma Malin combed through and combined the results of 51 studies regarding low-umbilical cord pH, studies that covered nearly 500,000 children. The results of the studies were similar despite the wide variety of ways they were conducted, namely that there was a consistent and strong link between pH levels and infant death, cerebral palsy and brain damage.

An editorial was published along with the study in the BMJ, and it urged careful surveillance of infants that have low umbilical cord pH.  

“Malin and colleagues’ systematic review of observational data suggests that a strong association exists between low umbilical artery pH at birth and major adverse outcomes including death, hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (usually manifesting as neonatal seizures), potentially serious brain abnormalities identified by imaging (periventricular leucomalacia or intraventricular haemorrhage), and cerebral palsy,” the editorial said.

 “Ultimately, given the findings of this study, we should aim to reduce the number of babies born with a low cord pH, without increasing unnecessary obstetric intervention. Hopefully this can be achieved by more hands-on input to labour ward care by fully trained obstetric specialists for some time have thought that acidity of the blood was linked to potential problems with newborns, but only the new study found a definitive connection between pH levels and adverse conditions such as brain damage.”