October 1992

Iatrogenic Complications in High-Risk, Elderly Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Internal Medicine (Drs Lefevre, Feinglass, Potts, Soglin, Martin, and Yarnold), Center for Health Services and Policy Research (Dr Feinglass), and Buehler Center on Aging (Dr Webster), Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(10):2074-2080. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400220090016

Background.—  This study explores the quality improvement potential of reviewing care for long-stay, elderly medicine service patients hospitalized for congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, or pneumonia at a large Midwestern teaching hospital.

Methods.—  Medical records were reviewed for 120 patients aged 65 years or older who were discharged between January 1987 and June 1989, with hospital stays of 15 days or longer. Patients' severity of illness on admission was rated using the Medicare Mortality Predictor System; process quality of care was rated using a structured implicit review form for judging several dimensions of clinical assessment and decision making. Serious complications were coded by etiology and type and judged as possibly or probably preventable. Logistic regression was used to identify risk factors for iatrogenic events; multiple regression was used to assess potential outcome bias in ratings of overall quality of care.

Results.—  Of 120 medical records reviewed, 70 (58.3%) suffered at least one iatrogenic complication. Forty-three patients (35.8%) suffered an iatrogenic complication rated as potentially preventable. Significant predictors of all iatrogenic complications were quality ratings of initial physician assessment, patients' inability to walk unassisted, and low Glasgow Coma Score. For potentially preventable complications, quality ratings for physician documentation of functional status were also significant. Ratings for overall quality of care were not significantly influenced by the mere presence of death or complications.

Conclusions.—  Iatrogenic complications are likely to be an extremely common experience for elderly medicine service patients with long lengths of stay. A significant portion of these complications may be potentially preventable with closer attention to initial assessment and documentation of patients' functional status.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:2074-2080)