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Sentinel event statistics now include the first half of 2004. As defined by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a sentinel event is an unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk of death or serious injury.


The JCAHO has maintained a sentinel events database since 1995. That database includes 2,552 reports of sentinel events affecting 2,667 patients. Seventy-five percent of these events resulted in a patient's death.


Sixty-two percent of events occurred in general hospitals; 12% in psychiatric hospitals; 5% in behavioral health care facilities; 5% in psychiatric units in general hospitals; and 4% in emergency departments.


Below are the 10 most often reported sentinel events and the total for each.


1. Patient suicide: 382


2. Operative/postoperative complication: 330


3. Wrong-site surgery: 310


4. Medication error: 291


5. Delay in treatment: 172


6. Patient fall: 114


7. Patient death or injury in restraints: 113


8. Assault, rape, or homicide: 89


9. Transfusion error: 73


10. Perinatal death/loss of function: 71.