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Surgical errors involving medication are more common than thought

Errors in operating rooms here in Oregon and across the nation occur far too often. Some of those surgical errors involve medications given to patients before, during and after a procedure. Recently, it was discovered that the number of medication mistakes made under these circumstances is much higher than previously recorded.

This is largely because researchers relied on doctors to report the mistakes themselves. As a result, the data indicated that medication errors were uncommon. Researchers had not taken the time to observe surgeries in person in order to obtain information that is more accurate. That recently changed.

Researchers observed approximately 277 procedures at Massachusetts General Hospital. Their data showed that nearly half of all of those procedures included some sort of medication issue. The three top errors included medications that were mislabeled, dosages that were incorrect and vital signs indicating symptoms of a problem that were not treated. An alarming 69 percent of the mistakes were considered to be serious, 30 percent were significant and approximately 2 percent were thought to threaten the patients' lives. The number of life-threatening medication errors might seem insignificant, but for the patients and families who experienced them, they were anything but harmless.

If these numbers are indicative of what goes on around the country, including here in Oregon, far more people are suffering injuries during surgeries. Surgical errors involving medication can alter a patient's life -- and the life of his or her family -- forever. People who believe that they were harmed in this manner have the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties who could bear some liability. Successfully establishing that the error occurred could result in an award of damages that could help with medical care needed now and in the future.

Source:, "Previous estimates of medication errors in the operating room have relied doctors' own estimates.", June 11, 2016

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