On the ten o’clock news there’s a story about a car accident in Tonganoxie and the report ends, “One of the drivers was reported to be in serious condition at St. Bob’s Hospital; the other driver was reported to be in good condition at St. Buffy’s.” I think we can all figure out that critical is worse than serious which is worse than good, but are there any other conditions out there? Do they mean anything specific–for example, does critical condition mean that the patient is probably going to die or does it just mean that he got messed up pretty badly? Are all patients given a condition or just people who get on the news like victims of accidents, violence, etc.? Does classification depend on the hospital or is there some sort of industry standard? When did this custom or law or whatever it is start and why?
It’s simply a custom of hospital spokespersons who need to compress horrible injuries / sicknesses into as few words as possible without revealing a ton of personal or medical details.
My take on the conditions:
*Refused treatment - walked away scott-free.
*Treated at the scene - got a bandaid and free blood pressure check.
*Treated and released - Got horrifically expensive bandaid at the hospital.
*Kept for observation - staying at least overnight or until they determine how deep those pockets really are.
*Good condition - injuries are not life-threatening and a full recovery is virtually assured. Total financial ruin narrowly averted.
*Stable condition - We pulled this guy back from the brink, but we don’t expect him to die before we get our mitts on the kid’s college fund.
*Guarded condition - This fellow is walking a tightrope, we are carefully watching his vital signs including stock brokerage accounts.
*Critical condition - Whoa Nelly! The mortician may be a big winner.
*DOA/Name withheld pending notification of next of kin - Got off easy.
Nickrz, do I sense a little bitterness here?
Our hospital gives us a list of adjectives and the criteria involved; I don’t know if these are standard or just for our hospital. “Critical” condition means the patient is in intensive care, but the seriousness varies. Also keep in mind that the reporters almost always get the facts screwed up, at least in the initial reports (I’m thinking of my local newspaper here, which really bites). Often, they can’t reliably tell you how many people are dead, much less the condition of the survivors.
I will concede that doctors often are overcautious. When in doubt, they’ll keep you overnight and run more tests. This works to your benefit though, especially after an accident where your brain or guts could be bleeding without you knowing it right away. We can catch most problems before they become life threatening if we’re given a night to observe the patient.
Critical - “significant” chance of dying. Seriously, though that chance could be anywhere between 5 & 100%. Since docs don’t do so well prognosticating, there’s no push to sub-divide this category further.
Guarded, Serious, Fair - all describe the same thing - fair is little risk of dying, but pretty banged up & will be there a while.
Guarded means in addition that while there is nothing life-threatening right now, the patient is being watched for life-threatening comlications. Serious means that there is significant risk of permanant disability (brain damage, loss of limb, paralysis).
Good, Stable - recovery progressing as expected.
Actually, these terms do vary a bit from hospital to hospital. Also keep in mind that as often as not, the hospital PR staffer who doesn’t know the difference between an intern, a resident, or attending physician, grabs the first person in scrubs that he sees to fill out the form & check off the correct category…
Sue from El Paso