Management deficiencies and death preventability in 120 victorian road fatalities (1993-1994)

Francis T. Mcdermott, Stephen M. Cordner, Ann B. Tremayne

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Background: In 1992 a multidisciplinary committee was established to identify problems in the management of road fatalities in Victoria, Australia, to assess their contribution to death, and to identify preventable deaths (preventable: survival probability more than 75%; potentially preventable: survival probability between 25 and 75%). Methods: For 1993-94. 120 consecutive fatality cases surviving until arrival of ambulance services were evaluated by analysis and discussion of their complete pre-hospital, hospital and autopsy records. Results: A total of 1175 problems were identified in 455 admissions to the various areas of care. A total of 949 problems (81%) were found to be management errors and 123 (11%) were found to be system inadequacies. Technique errors (35 (3%)), diagnosis delays (27 (2%)) and diagnosis errors (41 (4%)) were less frequent. The emergency department (ED) accounted for 662 (56%) problems, followed by 191 (16%) pre- hospital problems and 140 (12%) intensive care unit (ICU) problems. There were 598 (51%) problems that were assessed as contributing to death. A total of 308 (52%) problems occurred in the ED. 106 (18%) were pre-hospital problems and 71 (12%) occurred in ICU. Management errors comprised 465 (78%) problems contributing to death, and system inadequacies comprised 76 (13%) problems. Resuscitation problems accounted for 101 (40%) of the 254 ED management errors contributing to death. A total of 79 (66%) deaths were assessed as non-preventable, five (4%) were assessed as preventable and 36 (30%) were assessed as potentially preventable. Conclusions: Organizational and educational countermeasures are required to reduce the high frequency of problems in emergency services and clinical management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-418
Number of pages194
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 1997


  • Emergency medical services
  • Evaluation studies
  • Hospital mortality
  • Injuries
  • Mortality
  • Traffic accidents
  • Trauma severity indices
  • Triage
  • Wounds

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