Archives for June 7, 2004

Serendipity vs. Luck

A few days ago I was comparing notes with a colleague, and we both related unexpected findings from tests, findings which significantly altered the course of treatment for these two patients.

Serendipity came to mind as a description: serendipity \sehr-uhn-DIP-uh-tee\, noun:
The faculty or phenomenon of making fortunate accidental discoveries.

Luck also came to mind: luck n.
The chance happening of fortunate or adverse events; fortune: They met one day out of pure luck.
Good fortune or prosperity; success: We wish you luck.
One’s personal fate or lot: It was just my luck to win a trip I couldn’t take.

I suppose the biggest difference is that you cannot have bad serendipity.

My case was a fellow with a hernia I was CTing and found renal cell CA, a potentially curable problem that usually goes undiagnosed until it’s too late. My colleagues’ case was a fellow with a femur fracture from being thrown off a bull. Absoultely benign abdominal exam. The EP’s quote was “I wimped out” and ordered a CT, which found a subcapsular splenic hematoma (bleeding around the spleen, but inside its protective capsule – at least for a while).

This stuff makes me want to just CT people at triage.

edited for spelling