It is said that art imitates life and the episode “Personal Jesus” in Season 14 of Grey’s Anatomy revealed some hard-core facts: patients die unnecessarily because of missed diagnosis.
Three patients entered the fictitious Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital and none of them left alive, including a woman who had just given birth to a healthy baby at 37 weeks. She was in labor at 37 weeks with a “normal” blood pressure but died of something called the “HELLP” Syndrome that is associated with pre-eclampsia.
“HELLP” is an acronym for hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes and low platelets which help the blood clot thereby avoiding hemorrhage.
Could the tragedy of the fictionalized patient in Grey’s Anatomy been avoided? Perhaps, if the physicians had a heightened level of suspicion based on her risk factor of first pregnancy. First-time pregnant moms are at a greater risk of developing preelampsia so a brief discussion should have been made in the medical records along with the “low blood pressure.”
Tragically, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported over 5,000 maternal deaths of women who delivered within a year of giving birth from 2011 to 2013. This represent an increase in maternal mortality from 7 percent to 15 percent. Despite these dismal statistics, there are things that clinicians can do to fight this battle which include being more proactive by looking for this disease even before a patient is in a state of crisis. We, as clinicians can do better and we MUST do better. Too many women are dying.
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