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Can medication errors happen during surgery?

It might shock you to learn that approximately one out of every two surgeries involves some sort of adverse event or error. That is what a study done by Harvard University found when they studied more than 275 operations at one of the famed university's affiliate hospitals. The study did note that not all of the errors or adverse events led to significant patient harm. Still, the fact that so many surgeries had errors means that anyone having surgery should be aware of possible issues.

Are medication errors likely?

Medication errors during the perioperative period are possible. In the Harvard study, medication errors and adverse drug events were present in 1 out of every 20 medication administrations during the perioperative period. Over the entire course of the study, there were 3,675 medication administrations. Of those there were 153 medication errors and 91 adverse reactions. Interestingly, one-third of the medication errors led to an adverse reaction. Only 20 percent of the adverse reactions weren't considered to have been associated with a medication error.

What safety measures are in place?

Generally, there is a multi-level check system in place. This includes the ordering physician, the pharmacist, and the administering nurse. There are instances in which these checks might not all occur. This is common during surgery when a patient's condition changes quickly.

For the people who suffer harm because of a medication error or other error during surgery, finding the cause of the issue usually brings some comfort. On top of that, seeking compensation might help them to feel like they've taken steps to remedy the problem.

Source: Harvard Gazette, "Medication errors found in 1 out of 2 surgeries," Sue McGreevey, accessed Aug. 04, 2016

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