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Study: Medication mistakes are a common danger during surgery

Medication errors occurred in nearly half of the surgical procedures followed in one study, and may result in worsened medical conditions or death.

People in New York and elsewhere may, at some point or another, need surgery for any number of reasons. During and after their procedures, patients are often given medications. Most view this as a helpful tool in their treatment and do not expect it to cause them additional problems. However, a study performed by researchers with Massachusetts General Hospital found that medication errors during surgery are all too common.

There are a number of steps involved with ordering and administering medications to patients. Consequently, there is a number of opportunities for errors. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, medication errors typically occur due to doctor mistakes when writing prescriptions or when clerks, pharmacists or pharmacy technicians read and interpret them.

Studying the prevalence of medication errors during surgery

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital performed a study to understand the frequency of medication mistakes during operations. To this end, the four researchers observed 277 surgical procedures that were performed at the hospital between November of 2013 and June of 2014. Massachusetts General Hospital reported that the researchers analyzed the actions of 225 resident physicians, anesthesiologists and nurse anesthesiologists from the time they took responsibility for patients until the patients went to recovery or the intensive care unit.

For the study, the research team documented the administration of all medications, any errors that occurred and any resulting adverse drug events. Medication errors, for the study's purposes, were defined as mistakes that occurred while anesthesia providers ordered or administered medications. This included writing down the incorrect drug amounts, administering the wrong dosage or failing to appropriately manage changes in patients' vital signs during the procedure.

Medication mistakes are a common danger

During the study, the researchers documented a total of 3,675 medication administrations, 153 medication mistakes and 91 adverse drug events. Of the 277 randomly selected procedures that they observed, there as an adverse drug event or medication error in 124 cases. Of those, nearly 80 percent were preventable, according to CBS News. Since Massachusetts General Hospital is a safety leader, experts warn that the problem could actually be greater than what was seen in the study. In the course of our own practice we have handled mediation errors both in and out of the hospital. Some, like the overdose of an anti inflammatory causing temporary renal failure others such as an overdose of the anticoagulant heparin resulting in death.

Obtaining legal guidance

Due to medication errors during surgery, patients in New York may suffer additional or worsened medical conditions or, in some cases, death. As a result, they may require additional or prolonged medical treatment. This may lead to undue medical expenses, as well as lost wages if they have to take more time off of work than they had planned for. In some cases, however, the medical professionals may be liable for these, and other resulting damages. Therefore, people who have fallen victim to medication mistakes during surgical procedures may find it helpful to speak with an attorney regarding their options for pursuing financial compensation.

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