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New Study: Medication Errors Are Common During Surgery

As San Diego medical malpractice lawyers, we are interested in a new study that raises concerns about the frequency of medication errors during surgery. Researchers found that medication mistakes occur in half of all operations.

The study, which was published in the journal Anesthesiology, examined the rate of medical errors during surgeries performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is historically ranked among the country’s top hospitals. Researchers observed 277 surgeries, and detected 193 errors, which amounted to 1 in every 20 times medication was administered.

As reports, the mistakes included drug labeling errors, incorrect dosing, improper drug documentation, and failing to address changes in a patient's vital signs during the operation. Nearly 80 percent of the medication errors were deemed preventable.

“This is the first large-scale look at medication errors in the time immediately before, during and directly after surgery," study author Dr. Karen Nanji, an assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, stated. Previous error estimates relied on doctors to self-report.

Of the medication errors that occurred during surgery, two-thirds were serious and two percent were life-threatening. In one incident, nurses incorrectly programmed an intravenous (IV) drip to dispense the medication all at once rather than over the course of the operation, which could have resulted in death. In another case, doctors and nurses failed to respond when a patient’s blood pressure dropped dangerously low.

Dr. Nenji acknowledged that hospitals all over the country likely have room for improvement when it comes to preventing medication errors during surgery. “In fact, it's very likely that this issue is even more problematic given that Mass General is a national leader in patient safety, and has gone out of its way to study this issue in order to improve outcomes," she added.