To reduce the risk of harm to patients, hospitals establish medical protocol such as the use of simple checklists and electronic systems for drug prescriptions. However, as a recent study shows, one aspect of hospital protocol that needs serious improvement is the use of medications during surgery.
The study, published in the journal Anesthesiologist, looked at 277 medical procedures and found that medication errors during operations happened far more frequently than previously believed. The problem had not been systematically studied until now.
If applied across a broader spectrum, the findings suggest that medication errors of some kind occur in about 50 percent of all surgeries.
The authors of the study noted that medications are administered quickly in the operating room because a patient's condition can quickly change. Because a pharmacist isn't there during surgery to double-check the prescription, the risk of harm to the patient is significantly higher.
In fact, the researchers found that more than 33 percent of the observed medication errors resulted in harm to patients.
What can Texas hospitals do to prevent medication errors during surgery?
In their report, the researchers recommend that hospitals improve their technology and medical protocol in order to safeguard against medication errors. For example, drugs administered with a syringe during an operation should be properly labeled, and doctors can use bar code scanning systems that alert to potential medication mistakes.
Implementing these and other measures will improve safety in the operating room, but the study's lead author concluded that the necessary solutions are not being widely implemented.
Determining exactly when and where a surgical error occurred requires careful investigation.
At Davis & Davis, a large part of our legal practice involves investigating medical errors, including errors in medications and surgery. Medical professionals are often reluctant to admit to a mistake that caused harm to a patient, but the harm is nonetheless real. We work to uncover medical negligence and obtain for our clients the compensation to which they are entitled.
We are also advocates for improved hospital protocol. For more on that, please see our previous post, "How Texans Can Recognize Thiamine Deficiency Before It's Too Late."