Drug Errors Observed In Almost One In Two Surgeries In Recent Study

On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

A new study suggests that in almost half of surgeries, medical professionals make errors in administering antibiotics, anesthesia or other drugs.

Given the complex nature of surgical procedures, completely eliminating operating room errors has proven a challenging task for healthcare providers. Unfortunately, there are many errors that happen regularly and even could be prevented in many cases. Drug errors may be one of these common and dangerous surgical mistakes, according to research. During a recent study, researchers found that medication errors with potential to cause harm happened in nearly half of all surgical procedures.

About the study

The observational study took place at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is widely recognized as a leading medical center. According to Bloomberg, the study's researchers observed 277 randomly selected surgical procedures over a seven-month period. During these procedures, medical professionals administered medications that ranged from anesthesia to antibiotics.

The researchers found that medical professionals made errors during about one out of 20 medication administrations. Since most of the procedures involved multiple medication administrations, this translated to an error occurring in roughly one out of two surgeries. Longer procedures, particularly ones that lasted over six hours, were more likely to involve errors.

All of the observed errors could have caused patients harm. In some cases, patients received the incorrect drug or dosage. In other cases, medical professionals failed to correctly label medications, which could have resulted in the same errors. One-third of these mistakes caused adverse reactions, and three of them were considered life threatening.

Causes of drug errors

The risk of anesthesia administration errors and other drug administration errors may be particularly high during surgical procedures because of the nature of these procedures. During most other inpatient treatments, various medical professionals check to ensure that patients are receiving the correct drugs and doses. However, during fast-paced surgical procedures, there is frequently not enough time for medication administrations to be reviewed or double-checked.

A small number of these errors may be unavoidable, given the information or technology that medical professionals are working with. For example, in the recent study, about one-fifth of the errors involved adverse reactions that occurred due to undiscovered drug allergies. Troublingly, though, the majority of the mistakes were deemed preventable.

Victims may have options

Preventable mistakes that end up causing harm to be patients may be considered instances of medical malpractice. Victims may be able to recover damages through a malpractice lawsuit, if they can show that a competent medical professional would not have erred in the same way under the same circumstances. In New York, victims also must provide a certificate of merit stating that a qualified medical professional has reviewed the claim and found it valid.

Documenting a medical malpractice claim can be challenging, particularly if the case involves drug errors or other surgical mistakes. Consequently, victims may benefit from speaking to an attorney for advice on navigating the claim process and pursuing appropriate recourse.