State reports detail 11 patient deaths linked to alarm fatigue in Massachusetts
Through public records requests, the Globe found 11 deaths in Massachusetts since 2005 linked to lack of response, or inadequate response, to alarms on cardiac monitors. At least three involved leads-off alarms - a lead is the sticky patch at the end of a monitor cable that adheres to a patient’s skin. Three involved alarms for a low battery or other malfunction that went unnoticed or were ignored. In many hospitals, leads-off and low-battery alarms are a lower priority, and the beeps sound further apart and are less shrill. In two cases, nurses didn’t respond to alarms signaling that the patient’s heart rate was deteriorating, a warning that would produce faster, more piercing beeps.