Thousands of people die every year from diseases that are never spotted by
doctors – and the numbers of ‘unknown deaths’ could be as high as deaths from
Researchers discovered medicine’s blind spot when they reviewed deaths of
critically-ill patients who were being treated in intensive care units in
hospitals across the US. They found that 28 per cent of the patients – which
totalled 40,500 people - had diseases and complications that had never been
diagnosed by the doctors. Of these, at least 8 per cent had diseases that
directly contributed to their death.
The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believe that
‘unknown deaths’ could be as great as deaths from breast cancer.
The most common conditions being missed by doctors included heart attack,
pulmonary embolism (an artery blockage in the lungs), pneumonia, and
aspergillosis, a fungal infection that affects people with a weakened immune
(Source: BMJ Quality & Safety, 2012; doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2012-000803).