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Int J Qual Health Care. 1997 Dec;9(6):427-33.

Systematic analysis of in-patients' circumstances and causes of death: a tool to improve quality of care.

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Center for Medical Informatics of the UCL (University of Louvain), St. Luc University Hospital, Brussels, Belgium.



To point out actions improving quality of care from a systematic analysis of causes and circumstances of death of hospital patients.


All in-hospital patient deaths during 1993 and 1994.


Saint Luc University hospital.


Immediate and original causes of death, other diagnoses or procedures, circumstances of death, place, members of hospital staff, family or friends with the patient, mention of "do not resuscitate", of unexpected death, of problems during the process of care and of autopsy performed.


The mean age of the patients was 60 years. The proportion of men was 57%. The majority of patients died in their room. No family or friends, or members of hospital staff were observed for 17%. "Do no resuscitate" was mentioned for 38% of the patients and the proportion of unexpected death and autopsy was 15% and 28% respectively. The most frequent causes of death were malignant and cardiovascular diseases. At least one of the following diseases was mentioned on 14% of the forms; complications during care, septicaemia, pulmonary embolism, adverse effects of drugs or pressure ulcer. Mean length of hospital stay was 14.7 days.


A systematic analysis of the causes and circumstances of death reveals the epidemiology of hospital deaths and highlights specific diseases, complications or circumstances that could be changed. This study creates the opportunity for possible further action, such as improvement in prevention of pulmonary embolism and support of the members of staff or the friends and family of the patient at the time of death.

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