Adverse event and error of unexpected life-threatening events within 24 hours of ED admission

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Errors and adverse events associated with unexpected life-threatening events including unplanned transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU) and unexpected death after emergency department (ED) hospitalization are not well characterized. We performed this study to investigate the role of unexpected life-threatening events as a trigger to capture errors and adverse events for ED patient safety.


This prospective observational study enrolled adult non-trauma patients with unexpected life-threatening events within 24 h of general ward admission from the ED of a medical center in Taiwan. The period of study was one year (in 2013); the medical records of enrolled patients were reviewed to identify adverse events and errors. We measured the incidence rate of adverse events or errors. Preventability, type, and physical injury severity of adverse events were investigated.


Of 33,224 adult non-trauma ward admissions from the ED, 100 admissions (0.3%) met the study criteria. Incidence rate was 2% and 15% for errors and adverse events, respectively. In admissions involving error, all were preventable and the error type was overlooked of severity. In admissions that involved adverse events, 93.3% were preventable. There were 20% of admissions that resulted in death and 60% developed with severe physical injury. The adverse event types were diagnosis issues (53.3%), management issues (40%), and medication adverse events (6.7%).


Unexpected life-threatening events within 24 h of admission from the ED could be a useful trigger tool to identify preventable adverse events with serious physical injury in ED.

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