August 1, 2012

A report published recently in the Journal of Surgical Research showed that injured patients who are admitted to the hospital on a weekend are more likely to die than patients who are admitted during the week. Johns Hopkins University conducted a review of almost 40,000 medical records of patients between the ages of 65 and 89 who had suffered a head injury. The researchers found a 14 percent higher mortality rate in patients admitted over the weekend.

The study also noted that even when a person’s head trauma wasn’t as severe, or the patient had fewer pre-existing medical conditions, the patient was still 14 percent more likely to die from his injuries. The unanswered question is whether the increase in the number of deaths is the result of negligence or something else.

This alarming news is similar to results of previous studies that reviewed records of aneurysm, stroke and heart attack patients. The higher mortality rate has come to be known as the “weekend effect.”

Researchers at Johns Hopkins were not able to attribute the increased death rate to any known medical reason. Medical analysts have surmised that that staffing levels may be lower at many hospitals over the weekend and that care may be delayed or specialists aren’t readily available to treat patients. The study also was not able to determine if the difference in results was due to patient care received at a community hospital or a teaching hospital.

With all of the uncertainties around weekend patient care and patient deaths, the only outcome we do know is that at least 25 percent of head trauma injuries happen on the weekend and that 14 percent more people will die as a result. If you or a loved one needs to be hospitalized over the weekend it is important to advocate for the quality of care needed, and to seek legal assistance if you suspect a hospital may have been negligent in providing that care.

Source: Modern Physician, “Study: Weekend hospital patients more likely to die,” Beth Kutscher, Aug. 6, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Portland and Seattle emergency room errors page.


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