Diagnostic errors in orthopaedics are usually caused by missing a fracture or misreading radiographs. The aim of this study was to document the pick-up rate of the wrong diagnoses by reviewing X-rays and casualty notes in the next-day trauma meeting.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
The casualty notes and radiographs of 503 patients were prospectively reviewed in the daily trauma meeting between August 2002 and December 2002 in a district general hospital. The relevant data were collected and analysed by a single assessor.
The false positive rate for making an orthopaedic diagnosis was 12.6% (i.e.) diagnosing a fracture, when none existed). The false negative (missing) rate was 4%, while 2.4% incidental findings were missed, or at least not documented, after reading the X-rays. There were 7.8% wrong diagnoses made. The majority of the patients were seen by the senior house officers.
The medicolegal significance of false negative diagnosis is obviously greater. In a busy emergency department, where a large number of patients are seen, there is a greater risk. This study shows the importance in a small-to-medium sized accident and emergency unit as well, where there is no senior cover available out-of-hours for final radiological interpretation. A morning trauma meeting which covers reviewing admitted patients as well as non-admission orthopaedic referrals has an effective risk management solution to early detection of missed and wrong diagnoses.