Study reveals medication errors happen in nearly half of surgeries

A study has shown that medication errors during surgery happen all too often.

When people undergo surgery in Illinois, they are putting their trust in the hands of the staff that will be operating on them. The last thing that anyone wants to imagine is that a mistake will be made when they are unconscious and being worked on. Unfortunately, medication errors and adverse drug events happen quite frequently, as indicated by a recent study.

Defining medication errors and adverse drug events

A medication error is described as a preventable error relating to dispersing medication. It can be anything from the wrong amount of a drug being administered to a patient, to the wrong drug being selected. An adverse drug event, however, implies that while a drug was in use, an injury took place, even if the drug itself was not the cause of injury. Accidental overdoses and allergic reactions are a couple examples of adverse drug events.

The statistics of perioperative errors

A study recently published in The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc., analyzed a randomly selected set of operations at a single medical center. Perioperative simply means "around the time of surgery." The most striking statistic they revealed was that out of 277 observed operations, every other surgery involved an adverse drug event or medication error. Researchers found that 193 out of 3,671 medication administrations included medication errors. Out of that number, researchers stated the following:

  • Three of the errors threatened the life of the patient
  • 33.3 percent of the errors were described as causing significant harm to the patient
  • 64.7 percent were serious
  • 45.8 percent of the errors had the potential to harm the patients involved.

Those who conducted the study also considered some of the possible reasons for why the study yielded such undesirably high numbers. Care in the operating room is not only done within a time limit, but the levels of stress that the involved staff experience can be quite intense. Another factor is the way medication is administered in a perioperative setting. Normally, there are multiple checks that must be done by nurses, as well as approval by a pharmacy, and physicians must enter their orders electronically. Often, none of these precautionary measures take place around the time of operations.

The gravity of the results

An article by CBS News discusses the results of the study. One expert who was interviewed stated that these kinds of mistakes are seen by people working in hospitals so often that they are uncountable, and he was not surprised at the numbers. Part of the aim of the study was to identify the causes of the kinds of errors observed, therefore aiding efforts to improve the care provided to patients.

If people in the Chicago area have been affected by a medication error made during surgery, they have the right to pursue financial compensation. A lawyer who is skilled with medical malpractice cases could provide sound advice and representation in such matters.