Alarm fatigue

The Globe investigates the lack of response, or inadequate response, to alarms on cardiac monitors in hospitals, which have led to deaths.

Wide heart monitor use tied to missed alarms

Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe

Recent studies show that a large percentage of patients who are on cardiac monitors do not need to be — an overuse of technology that contributes to alarm fatigue.

For nurses, it’s a constant dash to respond to alarms

All morning long, nurses heard — and responded to — constant beeping, dinging, and chiming; some kind of alarm sounded at least every minute.

special report

Patient alarms often unheard, unheeded

The incessant din of beeping monitors can numb or distract hospital staff; the consequences can be deadly.

March 26, 2012

FDA working to trim hospital ‘alarm fatigue’

The US Food and Drug Administration is seeking to reduce “alarm fatigue’’ in hospitals by intensifying its pre-market review of medical devices that sound alarms and could contribute to the desensitization of nurses - a problem that the Globe reported last year was linked to hundreds of deaths. The agency is providing additional training on alarm standards and alarm safety to its reviewers, who are responsible for scrutinizing 4,000 applications a year from device manufacturers.

Oct. 31, 2011 | G Cover

Hospital noise hinders recovery

Studies suggest that patients need peace and quiet to heal, yet hospitals are some of the noisiest places around, in part due to the constant alarming of monitors. The VA Boston Healthcare System recently placed noise meters on a patient floor and found that night-and day - decibel levels exceed recommendations by the World Health Organization for patients to sleep. In fact, nighttime noise levels where similar to a vacuum cleaner and toilets flushing nearby. This is tied to the importance of reducing the huge number of false alarms. The alarms not only contribute to alarm fatigue, but also may be interfering with patient sleep and therefore, healing.

Dec. 11, 2011

// Ventilator errors are linked to 119 deaths

More than a hundred patients have died since 2005 in incidents involving the machines’ alarms, warnings that are often ignored or missed by overtaxed caregivers.

Sept. 21, 2011

‘Alarm fatigue’ a factor in 2d hospital death

The second patient death in four years involving “alarm fatigue’’ at UMass Memorial has pushed the hospital to intensify efforts to prevent nurses from tuning out monitor warning alarms.