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How common are medication errors during surgery?

While you may be like many people in Iowa who trust that their doctors are being thorough and accurate when they are administered medications during surgery, recent studies show that this may not always be the case. There can be several reasons for mistakes, but the fact remains that many medications are given in error. The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists studied 277 operations and reports on the problem of adverse drug events and medication errors.


Many prescription errors will cause you little to no harm, but there are some that can be more serious. Of the errors observed during the study, almost 21 percent were very unlikely to cause any harm, but 2 percent resulted in a life-threatening situation. Another 64 percent of the errors were deemed serious and 33 percent of the total number of mistakes led to an adverse drug event.


The frequency of these errors was also studied, with 193 of the 3,671 medications administered at some point during or after the surgery involving an adverse drug event or a medication error. While this equates to only 13 percent of prescriptions, it is important to note that almost 80 percent of the mistakes were preventable.


Researchers learned from this study that around one in every 20 administrations of perioperative medication were in error and over 30 percent of the errors caused harm to the patient. This information is not meant as legal or medical advice, but is intended to educate you on the risks associated with medication administration during surgery.

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