Dangerous Medication Errors During Surgical Care

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A leading patient safety organization recently released a detailed plan on how to prevent serious medication errors during the care of surgical patients.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is an organization focused on preventing medication errors, a common but potentially catastrophic type of medical error. According to ISMP, medication errors are preventable and can occur:

  • When labeling or packaging medications
  • When prescribing medications
  • When administering medications to patients

Medication Administration Errors

The federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that nearly 5% of hospital patients suffer harm from a preventable drug error.

Drug administration errors generally involve:

  • Giving medication to the wrong patient
  • Giving the wrong medication to a patient
  • Giving medication at the wrong time
  • Giving medication in the wrong dose
  • Giving medication via the wrong route

ISMP in August released a set of guidelines designed to prevent serious drug errors made with hospital surgical patients. It is also geared for outpatient surgical centers.

“ISMP Medication Safety Self-Assessment® for Perioperative Settings” is a set of “best practices” for preventing surgical care drug errors. Healthcare facilities grade themselves on how well they adhere to them.

As defined by ISMP, perioperative refers to the time a patient is prepped for surgery, undergoes surgery, and through the time when a patient is discharged home or sent to another hospital department to recover.

Caregivers Should Get Complete Patient Information and History Prior to Surgery

Collecting complete and correct patient information is one key element of ISMP’s self-assessment tool. Aspects of this process include:

  • Patient ID bracelets using two patient characteristics placed on the patient prior to drug administration and/or an operation
  • Gathering a patient’s medication list that includes medication names, dosages, frequency and route of administration
  • Known patient adverse reactions to any drugs
  • On day of surgery, patients are weighed in metric units only, for drug administration calculation purposes

Pre-surgery and post-surgery prescriptions should be verified by a pharmacist prior to administration, unless delay could harm a patient.

Miscommunication among healthcare providers is a common cause of serious medical errors, including drug administration mistakes. ISMP’s self-assessment tool for hospitals includes numerous protocols that ensure clear communications while prescribing or administering drugs before and after surgery.

Similar Sounding Drugs Mistakenly Given to Patient

Drugs that have similar packaging or similar names can be mistakenly substituted and harm patients. Another core element of ISMP’s self-assessment guidebook lists steps for preventing such mix-ups:

  • Reviewing the labels and packages of all medications prior to surgery to identify any potential confusion
  • Storing and arranging medications used in surgical care so labels are easily viewed
  • Storing surgical medications that have similar labels or packages separately in locked compartments

Patients always should receive the appropriate level of care during and after surgery.  This includes healthcare providers taking any and all steps designed to avoid dangerous drug errors.

If you or a loved one did not receive the appropriate level of medical care and were seriously injured as a result, turn to an experienced personal injury attorney to pursue just compensation on your behalf.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham.  Posted in Articles September 6, 2022.

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