A recent study indicates that medication errors occur in about half of all surgeries, possibly because patient safety policies and procedures are relaxed in the operating room.
The results came from an analysis of Massachusetts General Hospital’s initiative to measure and prevent drug errors during surgery. The study in Anesthesiology indicates that a medication error or adverse drug event was documented in 124 of 277 surgeries, which is about half. Of the 3,675 medication administrations during the procedures, 193 medication errors and adverse drug events were recorded, the researchers from Harvard University in Boston found. That number works out to be about 5% of all medication administrations in surgery.
The mistakes included drug labeling errors, incorrect dosing, drug documentation mistakes, and/or failing to properly treat changes in a patient’s vital signs during surgery.
Many of the errors occurred because common patient safety policies and procedures were loosened or bypassed in the surgical environment, the researchers suggest. Surgical teams often feel justified in not following all safety procedures when fast-moving events and changing circumstances require quick decisions and immediate action, they concluded.
Two-thirds of the drug errors were categorized as serious, 2% were considered life-threatening, and the rest were considered significant. Eighty percent of the errors were considered preventable. (An abstract of the study is available online at http://tinyurl.com/odsz6q6.)