Medication errors are disturbingly common in surgeries, study says

A study suggests that medication errors are far more common during surgeries than was previously thought.

A recent Harvard-led suggests that medication errors during surgical procedures may be much higher than previously estimated. According to CBS News, the study says that surgical errors linked to medication errors may occur in one out of every two operations. The study, which relied on direct observation of surgeries rather than on self-reporting by medical practitioners, is one of the first to highlight how much room there is for such error in the often high-pressure environment of many operating rooms.

Medication errors

The study, which was recently published in the journal Anesthesiology, documented 277 surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is generally considered one of the country's leading medical centers. Of the 277 cases studied, the study's authors found that there was a medication error or adverse drug event recorded in 124 of them. Because most surgeries involve multiple drug administrations, the study looked at a total of 3,675 medication administrations in those 277 cases and found 193 total medication errors.

Because that rate translates to a medication error for approximately one out of every 20 medication administrations, the study concluded that medication errors happen, on average, in about every second surgical procedure. The study considered two-thirds of the errors to be serious and, while no patients lost their lives because of the errors, two percent of the errors were deemed life-threatening. Analysts suggest the rate of errors may be even higher at other hospitals across the country given Massachusetts General's otherwise good reputation concerning patient safety.

Surgical risks

As Bloomberg reports, the rate of medication errors shown in the study is much higher than what has been reported in previous studies. The reason for the disparity may be because previous studies largely relied on self-reporting by surgeons themselves, which tends to lead to underestimations about actual errors.

The study suggests that medication errors during surgery may be particularly high due to the often chaotic nature of operating rooms. The study points out that while medications are often double-checked and go through rigorous safeguards in other hospital wards, the often high-pressure environment of operating rooms means that many safeguards get ignored, overlooked, or discarded during surgery.

Medical malpractice

Surgery can be a frightening medical procedure, both for patients and their families. Mistakes made during surgery can have serious and even fatal consequences. Anybody who may have been the victim of a surgical error should get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Medical malpractice cases can be extremely complex and an attorney who has a proven track record in pursuing such cases should be relied upon by those who may have suffered due to a surgical or other medical error.