Nearly 50 percent of all surgeries performed at one of the nation’s top hospitals have been found to involve some form of medication error or unintended side effect. Researchers believe this statistic likely applies to hospitals throughout the country.
The study was done at Massachusetts General Hospital where they found that 124 out of the 277 surgeries they observed between 2013 and 2014 included at least one medication error or drug-related accident that resulted in harm to the patient. Some of the more frequently observed errors included labeling mistakes, incorrect dosing, and medications that were administered, but shouldn’t have been.
Out of these group, more than one-third of the observed errors resulted in injury to the patients – including some that were life-threatening. Two errors were caught in time by the operating room staff and one was intercepted by a researcher observing the surgery. No fatalities were reported due to these errors.
The error rate has increased since previous years, but it is still in line with other inpatient wards and outpatient clinics. There have been only a handful of studies regarding medication errors in the operating room – and most relied on self-reported data.
The study was reported in Anesthesiology and it was presented to the American Association of Anesthesiologists. Here other clinicians reported similar errors that they have seen too in their surgeries.
The group was surprised at the number of under-reported cases – but this is because cases in the past have relied on self-reporting and most physicians are reluctant to report their errors to professional organizations and especially to patients. The rates are alarmingly high compared to the self-reported rates received over the past few years, and if more hospitals are researched independently, it is likely their error rates will jump significantly.
Medication errors are not unique and are common in most hospitals. Most of them are regarding common medications used in a hospital setting too. Those medications found to cause the highest number of errors included fentanyl – a pain medication; and phenylephrine – a blood pressure medication.
The reason the numbers are so high in the operating room is there are no nurses and pharmacists to double and triple check prescription medications before they are administered. Instead, it is up to the nurse or anesthesiologist to administer the medications, and this is done without any supervision or backup checks.
There were also errors that were noted during the process of ordering or administering the drug – such as allergic reactions. Some of these allergic reactions were not predictable because the patient had not disclosed a previous allergy or did not know they had an allergy.
Another common error found was how syringes were labeled, and those with clear liquids were often the ones that were labeled incorrectly.
In the study, about 10 medications were administered during an operation and within the study they found that about one out of every 20 medications administered resulted in an error.
Medication errors are becoming increasingly common, and while most patients are never told an error happened, there are times they suspect it, or the injuries are too severe. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no obligation case evaluation. Call or contact us online to get started.