Study: Nearly half of surgeries may expose patients to medication errors

In a recent study, researchers observed medication errors in almost half of all surgeries. At some hospitals, these error rates may be even higher.

During complex medical procedures such as surgery, even small errors can have catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately, research suggests that one potentially dangerous type of mistake occurs during roughly one out of every two surgeries performed in Atlanta. According to a recently published study, potentially dangerous or harmful medication errors may occur in almost half of all surgical procedures.

Troubling rates of errors

Forbes reports that the study incorporated observations that researchers made during 275 surgical procedures performed at Massachusetts General Hospital. During these procedures, medical professionals administered medication a total of 3,671 times. The researchers observed medication errors during nearly half of the surgeries, with the following mistakes occurring most frequently:

  • Incorrect labeling of the medication
  • Improper documentation of the administration
  • Administration of an incorrect dosage
  • Failure to observe vital signs and provide a needed medication

These mistakes became more common during procedures that were lengthier or required an above-average number of administrations. Troublingly, 33 percent of the errors caused adverse drug events, and the remainder all had the potential to do so. Alarmingly, the researchers concluded that four out of five of these errors should have been prevented.

Mistakes more common than expected

Bloomberg notes that the error rate observed in this study is much higher than the rate that past research has suggested. Many studies of medication errors have relied on reports from medical professionals, rather than impartial third-party observations. As a result, prior studies concluded that these errors were extremely rare. The new research indicates that these mistakes are fairly common and that underreporting may be a widespread issue.

Risk to Georgia patients

This study only utilized data from one hospital. However, according to Forbes, Massachusetts General Hospital is widely regarded as a leader in patient safety. When performing operation room procedures, medical professionals follow various protocols that may not be utilized at other hospitals. Therefore, rates of prescription errors and other surgical errors could be even higher at other medical facilities with less esteemed safety records.

Recourse for preventable errors

Legal remedies may be available to people who have suffered harm due to these needless errors. In some cases, these errors may represent medical malpractice. In Georgia, victims of medical malpractice may be able to recover various forms of compensation for their financial and other losses. These include damages for medical expenses, past and future wage loss, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment and loss of companionship.

Unfortunately, meeting Georgia's legal evidence standards and securing needed compensation may be challenging for many people. Therefore, victims of medication errors may benefit from consulting with an attorney about documenting the incident, its preventable nature and its role in causing injury.