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Dangerous Errors with Syringes and IVs

Medical mistakes are estimated to be responsible for the death of 250,000 U.S. patients every year. Medication errors represent a common but often serious type of preventable medical error.  A new survey shows that almost a third of medical professionals have witnessed one particular type of medication error.

There are several types of medication errors, including:

·         Wrong dose

·         Medication given to the wrong patient

·         Wrong delivery of correct medication

The new survey has to do a group of medications that are delivered by injection – typically syringes and IVs.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices is a nonprofit organization devoted entirely to preventing medication errors. In early November it released the findings of its look into the dangers of injectable medications when proper procedures are not followed.

Unsafe Practices Using Syringes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unsafe practices when injecting medicine can cause the transmission of dangerous viruses and bacteria that often lead to a hospital-acquired infection. The CDC provides examples of these unsafe practices:

·         Using the same syringe to administer medication to multiple patients

·         Using medications packaged as single-dose on more than one patient

·         Failure to properly clean syringes and IVs prior to administration

The survey from the ISMP focuses in on a different potential error involving injectable medications: mixing them outside of the pharmacy.

The process is known as admixing.  Admixing, or preparing the injectable medications, outside the pharmacy happens frequently.  And if not done properly, this procedure can actually harm patients.

The ISMP surveyed 444 medical professionals, with nearly 80% of them nurses. The remainder were largely anesthesiologists.  Most of the respondents worked in acute care hospitals, which cater to short-term stays, such as surgical patients.  Other healthcare professionals worked at:

·         Same-day surgery centers

·         Infusion centers

·         Clinics

Asked if they had witnessed an error mixing sterile injectable medications within the last year, 31% said they had.

Preparing these medications in the pharmacy is ideal, but not always followed. In fact, 28% said they often – or always – prepare such medications outside the pharmacy.  The medicines most commonly identified were insulin and infusions of medications needed during emergency treatment.

Even more troubling is that almost half of the medical professionals doing this mixing of medications outside the pharmacy said they had received no training on how to do so safely. And only 35% said they were required to have another practitioner present to double-check their work.

Using Expired IV Drug and Other Errors

The survey identified the most common medication errors involving injectable medications:

·         Use of an expired drug

·         The incorrect preparation technique

·         Incorrect dosage or concentration

·         No label or wrong label

The most common challenges to properly mixing injectable medications were:

·         Constant distractions and interruptions

·         Sterility of the preparation area – e.g., patient bedside or at the nursing station

·         The end product itself

Most of those surveyed said their facilities have standard protocols for admixing sterile injectable medicines outside the pharmacy.  But they also say they don’t have a lot of confidence they are being followed.

The standard level of medical care, including during drug administration, must be followed with every patient.  When not, patients are subject to the cause of a number annual deaths that is behind only cancer and heart disease.

If you suspect you or a loved one was the victim of a serious error during medical care, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to pursue your legal rights.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog November 20, 2020