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How Often Do Medication Errors Occur During Surgery?

  Alan Fuchsberg  |  November 6, 2015  |  

Reports about medication errors during surgery previously had to rely on estimates by doctors. According to physicians, medication errors happened once in every 133 surgeries. A new study done by an anesthesiologist at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital found that medication errors during surgery occurred much more frequently.

The study involved watching 277 surgeries from beginning to end. During those surgeries, medication was administered over 3,500 times. There were 193 errors or one in half of all surgeries. For every 20 times medication was given, there was an error. Two percent of the errors were life-threatening, and about 66 percent of the errors were serious.

One of the errors that the researchers said was “typical,” was that an IV was set up improperly. The medication could have rushed into the patient instead of dripping in slowly. Another error involved a patient who had an allergy to penicillin but was given a similar medication. The result of that medication error was a rash.

Most Common Medication Errors During Surgery

The most common errors that caused patients harm were doses that were incorrect, medications that patients should have received but didn’t, and slow responses to changes in vital signs of patients. Some of the errors, though, were caught in time.

An emergency doctor who is now retired said that the researchers set the bar very high. About 100 of the errors were those with little potential to harm patients, or near misses. He said that error reduction should include studies on near-misses.

When a patient suffers a medication error during surgery that adversely affects him or her, it may be possible to seek compensation. An attorney can provide victims with more information on how this can be done. We invite you to contact our New York law office with any questions you may have.

Data Source: Healthline, “Medication Errors Occur in Half of All Surgeries,” Cameron Scott, Oct. 26, 2015

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