Study shows medication errors occur during nearly half of all surgeries

New research indicates that medical professionals make medication errors in almost half of all surgeries, and the majority of these errors are preventable.

Research recently published in the journal Anesthesiology suggests that medical professionals make errors while medicating patients during nearly half of all surgical procedures. As many people in San Diego know, these errors have the potential to cause serious complications or even death. Troublingly, according to Forbes, about one-third of the errors observed during the study ultimately caused harm to patients.

Dangerous missteps

The study was based on observations made immediately before, during and after 275 surgeries. Over the course of these procedures, medical professionals administered medications 3,671 times. The researchers found that nearly one out of two of these surgical procedures involved potentially harmful medication errors. The following mistakes were the most common:

  • Incorrect labeling of the medication
  • Errors in documenting the administration of medication
  • Administration of an incorrect dose
  • Failure to detect a developing problem and treat it with the appropriate medication

The researchers found that the overwhelming majority of these medication errors had the potential to cause adverse drug events. Out of the mistakes that could have resulted in harm to patients, 33 percent were labeled significant, while 64 percent were serious.

Preventable errors

Although some medication errors are unavoidable, given the information available at the time to medical professionals, many may occur due to oversights or mistakes. Sadly, according to the study, four out of five of the observed errors could have been prevented. The risk of these errors was especially high during lengthy procedures that required more overall administrations of medication.

These findings are troubling for a few reasons. First, hospitals could reduce many unnecessary errors during surgery, including medication errors, by using more advanced technology or enacting stricter safety protocols. Additionally, all of the observed surgeries took place at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is widely recognized for its focus on patient safety. Hospitals that dedicate less attention to safety may make potentially dangerous errors at even higher rates.

Here in California, hospitals have reported 114 medication errors that resulted in significant disablement or death in the last four years, according to NBC News. Even more errors may have caused milder injuries. Unfortunately, as the investigation notes, it can be difficult for patients to find information about these adverse events when choosing a hospital. Additionally, since this data is based on hospital reports, rather than impartial observations, it may not reflect the true scale of the problem.

Options for victims

When preventable medication errors result in injuries or other serous complications, they may constitute medical malpractice. Victims of these needless errors may be able to secure damages for their medical costs, physical losses and emotional suffering. To learn more, anyone who has suffered adverse complications due to medication errors should consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney.