New research suggests half of surgeries may involve drug errors

A recent observational study of over 250 surgeries indicates that medical professionals may make drug errors in roughly one out of two of these procedures.

Most healthcare providers in New Mexico employ various precautions to reduce the risk of medication errors, given the serious consequences that these errors can have. Unfortunately, a new study indicates that these protocols may break down in the operating room. According to the research, medication errors during surgery may be more common than previously believed, occurring during roughly half of all surgical procedures.

Troubling observational findings

CBS News reports that the study took place at Massachusetts General Hospital, a recognized leader in patient safety. The researchers watched as medical professionals administered medication 3,675 times over the course of 277 surgeries. The researchers observed errors during nearly half of the surgeries, with common mistakes including the following:

  • Failure to properly label a medication
  • Improper recording of a medication administration
  • Administration of an incorrect dose
  • Failure to recognized, based on vital signs, that a medication was needed

The Boston Globe notes that these errors were likelier to occur in procedures that lasted longer or required more medications. The researchers observed errors during about one out of 20 administrations, so mistakes were statistically more likely to happen during surgeries that involved more administrations. The risk of mistakes was also notably higher during surgeries that lasted more than six hours.

Potentially dangerous mistakes

According to the same source, the severity of the observed mistakes varied greatly. Only three of the errors were potentially life threatening, and some mistakes did not directly harm patients. However, every mistake had the potential to cause harm. Troublingly, only about one-fifth of these errors were deemed unpreventable, due to factors such as undiscovered patient drug allergies. The rest of the errors should have been avoided.

Options available to victims

If an operating room medication error should reasonably have been avoided, it represents a professional lapse on the part of the responsible doctor or healthcare provider. If one of these errors results in serious harmful complications, legal recourse may be available to the victim. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, victims of medication errors may be able to recover damages for medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering and more.

In New Mexico, medical malpractice plaintiffs must show that a competent medical professional would not have made the error in question under the same circumstances. Plaintiffs also must prove that they suffered physical harm as a direct result of a needless mistake. This can be a complex process. Consequently, victims may benefit from consulting with a medical malpractice attorney for advice on putting together a claim.