JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Characteristics of discrepancies between clinical and autopsy diagnoses in the intensive care unit: a 5-year review.

OBJECTIVES: To characterise discrepancies between clinical and autopsy diagnoses in patients who die in the intensive care unit.

DESIGN: Retrospective chart review.

SETTING: Ten-bed closed mixed adult intensive care unit in a tertiary referral teaching hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: All the clinical notes and autopsy reports of 346 patients who died in the intensive care unit in 1996-2000.

INTERVENTIONS: Discrepancies between clinical and autopsy diagnoses were reviewed by two intensivists, a specialist in infectious diseases, a pathologist and an anaesthesiologist. New findings which would have changed current therapy in the intensive care unit were categorised as a Class I discrepancy, and those related to death but which would not have altered therapy as a Class II discrepancy.

RESULTS: Of 2370 patients admitted, 388 (16.4%) died. An autopsy was performed in 346 (89%) of the deceased patients. A Class I discrepancy was found in 8 patients (2.3%) and a Class II discrepancy in 11 patients (3.2%). Five of the eight (62%) Class I discrepancies were infections which occurred in patients already treated for another infections.

CONCLUSION: Despite the availability of advanced diagnostic facilities, especially infectious complications seem to remain undiagnosed. Autopsy is a valuable tool with which to monitor diagnostic accuracy in these patients.

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