Study: Medication errors commonly put New York patients at risk

Based on a recent study, medication errors during surgery are all too common, and put patients at risk for suffering worsened medical conditions or death.

People in New York and elsewhere frequently need medical care, including surgical procedures. When they go in for such treatment, they expect their medical providers to use care when prescribing, preparing and administering their medications. Unfortunately, however, medication errors are all too common, often leading to worsened medical conditions for patients. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that five percent of people who are hospitalized suffer adverse drug events. A recent study suggests that, while largely preventable, this type of medical malpractice is a common danger for patients during surgery.

Studying the prevalence of medication mistakes during surgery

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a prospective observational study to assess the percent of medication administrations that result in adverse drug events and the rate of medication mistakes. They published their findings in the Anesthesiology journal. The study staff was made up of a trained group of nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists. According to the study, the researchers observed 277 procedures that were performed at the hospital over an eight-month period.

During their observations, the researchers watched for and identified medication errors and adverse drug events. After each operation was completed, they performed a retrospective chart abstraction, at which time they flagged events they did not catch during the procedure. Finally, two independent reviewers went over all of the events. At all stages, the researchers noted mistakes involving dosage, labeling, documentation and vital sign monitoring.

Medication errors put surgical patients at risk

Based on the study's findings, medication errors are an all too common danger. A medication mistake or adverse drug event occurred in 124 of the 277 procedures that were observed. The Harvard Gazette reports that two-thirds of the medication mistakes they observed had the potential for harm, while one-third of them resulted in an adverse drug event. The researchers suggest the prevalence may be the same or greater at other facilities because the hospital already has protocols in place to ensure patient safety during surgery.

Pursuing financial compensation

When surgery patients in New York fall victim to medication mistakes, they often require additional or extended medical care. This treatment may carry costs that they were not prepared for and they may lose wages if they are forced to be out of work longer than they had planned for. Depending on the situation, however, the medical provider or facility may be held liable for these, and other resulting damages. Therefore, it may benefit those who have suffered a medication error or adverse drug event during surgery to seek legal guidance. A lawyer may explain their rights and help them determine the best course of action given their unique circumstances.