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Surgical errors involving medications occur in half of surgeries

Oregon readers may take interest in te results of a study published in Anesthesiology's Oct. 2015 issue. After reviewing nearly 275 surgical procedures performed at a hospital on the East Coast known for its patient safety, it was determined that surgical errors involving medication occurred in one out of every two surgeries. Of particular concern is the fact that the hospital in question had already taken steps to eliminate medication errors in surgery.

Of the 275 surgeries reviewed, medications were administered 3,671 times to the patients during pre-operative procedures, during the surgery itself or after the surgery. It is not unusual for a patient to receive more than one medication during a procedure. However, the more medications a patient requires, the more there is the potential for error.

The data indicated that longer surgical procedures -- those lasting for six or more hours and involving the administration of at least 13 medications to the patient -- increased the likelihood that an error could be made. Approximately one-third of the patients involved in the study, which took place at Massachusetts General Hospital, suffered some sort of harm due to the medication error. That may not seem like much, but it is important to remember that only 275 surgical procedures over the course of approximately eight months at one hospital were studied.

The error rate at other hospitals around the country, including those here in Oregon, could be significantly higher than those cited in the study. Most surgeries come with enough risk without adding surgical errors by doctors, anesthesiologists or other surgical staff into the mix. Oregon residents who suffer serious harm -- or lose a loved one -- as a result of a medication error retain the right to pursue medical malpractice claims.

Source: Forbes, "Disturbing New Study Finds Medication Errors In Half Of All Surgeries", Robert J. Szczerba, Oct. 27, 2015

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