Causes of Death in an Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Unit of a Portuguese General Hospital

Sofia Barbosa, Márcia Sequeira, Sara Castro, Rita Manso, Catarina Klut Câmara, Bruno Trancas, Nuno Borja-Santos, Teresa Maia


Introduction: Psychiatric patients are at increased risk of death from a number of natural and unnatural causes. This study examines the mortality causes of all psychiatric inpatients of an acute psychiatric unit at a general hospital in Portugal for sixteen years (1998 to 2013).
Material and Methods: Twenty-one inpatients died at the inpatient unit between 1998 and 2013 (average 1.3 per year). A retrospective study through case-file review was carried to collect demographic characteristics, medical and psychiatry diagnosis. Patients transferred to other wards during their admission were not included.
Results: Circulatory system diseases were the most prevalent causes of death, occurring in 2/3 of patients and include pulmonary embolism (n = 6), acute stroke (n = 3), cardiac arrhythmia (n = 2), acute myocardial infarction (n = 1), abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture (n = 1) and heart failure (n = 1). Two patients died with pneumonia and in four cases the cause of death was undetermined. Only one case of suicide was registered.
Discussion: Circulatory conditions were the most frequent causes of death in our inpatient unit. Albeit a relatively rare event, inpatient suicide does occur and, in addition to its complex consequences on staff, family and patients should remain a focus for continued prevention.
Conclusion: Mortality studies are important for determining quality of health care and to create recommendations for preventive measures.


Cause of Death; Hospital Mortality; Mental Disorders/mortality; Portugal; Psychiatric Department, Hospital.

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