Studies highlight how common medication errors are in the OR

This article looks at medication errors during surgery, especially those involving anesthesiologists.

A number of recent studies are shedding some much needed light on the problem of medication errors during surgery. A recent study by University of Michigan researchers found that many anesthesia errors are going unreported, according to Anesthesiology News. Previous studies have also found that overall medication errors in the operating room are disturbingly common, with one study suggesting that at least one out of every two surgeries involves at least one such error.

Unreported anesthesia errors

The University of Michigan study analyzed data from 434,554 cases but found that in only 238 of those cases did anesthesiologists self-report a medication error. That puts the rate of self-reporting of medication errors for anesthesiologists at just 5.5 per 10,000 cases, a figure that is well below what one would expect had all medication errors actually been reported. In fact, other studies suggest that the true rate of medication errors for anesthesiologists is closer to one per 100 cases.

The study also found that opioids and antibiotics were the two drugs most commonly associated with reported anesthesiologist medication errors. In 9.7 percent of reported errors the patient suffered from temporary harm, highlighting just how important accurate and complete reporting is. The leading cause of errors was a problem with judgment, such as giving the patient a drug they are allergic to, followed by administering the incorrect medication.

Medication errors in operating rooms

The study is not the first time concerns have been raised about medication errors in the operating room. A study by Harvard University researchers from 2015 concluded that about one out of every two surgeries suffers from a medication error, according to CBS News. That study looked at 277 surgeries that were performed at Massachusetts General Hospital and found either a medication error or adverse drug event occurred in 124 of those surgeries.

Surgeries have a particularly high risk of medication errors because patients are usually given more than one medication during the procedure. However, most such errors can be avoided. The Harvard study, for example, concluded that 80 percent of the medication errors and adverse drug events that it studied were preventable. About two-thirds of the errors and adverse events that were documented were categorized as "serious," with two percent categorized as life-threatening.

Medical malpractice

As the above article shows, medication errors are distressingly common in operating rooms and are just o ne example of the things that can go wrong for patients at a hospital. For those who have been harmed by what may be a case of a medical professional behaving negligently or recklessly, it is important to talk to a medical malpractice attorney today. An experienced attorney can advise clients on what legal avenues they have to pursue, including whether claiming financial compensation may be a possibility.