When a patient is first rolled into the operating room prior to a surgical procedure, there is a very good chance they are a bit nervous about everything from the administration of the anesthesia and the success of the procedure to the levels of post-op pain and their long-term prospects for success.
This nervousness may naturally begin to abate, however, as they look around the operating room, seeing immaculate facilities, state-of-the-art machinery and, of course, a team of medical professionals dutifully preparing for the procedure.
As reassuring as all this can be, a recently published study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that some of this faith in medical professionals may perhaps be misplaced — at least as far as the administration of medications is concerned.
As part of the study, researchers examined 277 surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital over a seven-month period in 2013 and 2014, focusing specifically on the timeframe before, during and immediate after the procedures.
Somewhat shockingly, some of their key findings included:
- Drug errors ranging from incorrect dosing and labeling mistakes to documentation lapses and failures to properly treat changes in vital signs were observed in 124 surgeries.
- 80 percent of the 193 total drug errors observed were determined to be preventable.
- 2 percent of the drug errors observed were classified as potentially life-threatening, roughly 66 percent were classified as “serious” and the remaining errors were classified as “significant.”
While the study authors indicated that the findings weren’t necessarily surprising, what they did find problematic was that Mass General is considered one of the nation’s premier hospitals and a leader in patient safety, meaning that this problem is likely even more widespread in standard hospital settings.
As to why these types of drug errors are occurring before, during and immediately after surgery, the authors theorize that it likely can be attributed to the fact that in the hectic environment of the operating room action must often be taken quickly such that the safety standards otherwise observed throughout the hospital may be overlooked out of necessity.
It’s important to remember that if you’ve been victimized by any sort of surgical mistake, drug error or any another type of medical negligence that you have rights and you have options for seeking justice.