Drug Errors Found in Almost Half of Surgeries

IV DripAll surgeries should be considered major procedures, as any type of surgical error could have dire consequences for patients. Mistakes in surgery include:

  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Performing the wrong surgical procedure
  • Failing to properly monitor the patient’s vital signs

But one specific type of surgical mistake was found to occur in almost half of all surgeries included in a recent study: medication error.

Researchers (anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists) at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the nation’s top medical research and care facilities, observed almost 300 surgeries at the Boston medical center between November 2013 and June 2014.

Common Drug Mistakes Made During Surgery

They witnessed a mistake in one out of every 20 times a patient was given a drug. With some surgeries requiring multiple medications, this translated to a drug error in almost half of the 277 surgeries researchers observed.

The most common medication mistakes during surgery the study found were:

  • Labeling errors
  • Improper dosages
  • Failing to adequately treat a patient for a potential problem based on vital signs

Sixty nine percent of the patient reactions caused by the surgical medication errors were deemed “serious.” Two percent were classified as life threatening.

Hectic Nature of Operating Room Can Lead to Medicine Errors

Researchers concluded the very nature of operating rooms lead to a high rate of medicinal mistakes. Things can happen much quicker in ORs, with conditions often changing rapidly. Fast, correct decisions are required, but not always made. And routine medicine safety checks that are conducted in other parts of the hospital are not always followed in surgery.

Researchers concluded that residents, anesthesiologists, and nurses assisting the anesthesiologists all made errors during surgery at about the same rate. Longer surgeries – those lasting more than six hours – were more likely to include a medication mistake than shorter procedures.

The rate of drug administration mistakes made during surgery in this research is much higher than previous studies. According to the study’s authors, this is because errors in other research were all self-reported.

Despite the often hectic conditions of surgery, many mistakes, such as drug errors, are preventable. When surgical errors kill or severely injure people, attorneys experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits can conduct investigations and seek justice for the patients and their families.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.