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Harvard study finds frequent medication errors during surgery

New Mexico residents may be surprised to learn that medication errors occurred in almost half of the surgeries studied by a group of Harvard researchers. The results are even more concerning because the errors were made during surgical procedures performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is considered one of the best medical facilities in the country. The renowned hospital ordered the study to identify problem areas and improve patient care.

According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, 193 medication errors occurred in 124 out of the 277 surgical procedures they looked into. Patients often receive multiple medications during surgery, which is why the number of mistakes is higher than the number of operations. Researchers say that medication was administered on over 3,000 occasions during the surgical procedures studied. Researchers also pointed out that 80 percent of these mistakes likely could have been prevented.

The mistakes noticed by researchers included dosage errors as well as drug labeling and documentation mishaps. Operating room staff were also discovered to have failed to properly respond when their patient's vital signs changed during a surgical procedure. The results of the study were published on Oct. 25 in the prominent online medical journal Anesthesiology. The surgeries studied took place in 2013 and 2014. While only 2 percent of the mistakes were considered to be life threatening, about two-thirds of them were thought to be serious.

Operating room staff are considered to be among the most capable medical professionals in the health care industry, and this study makes sobering reading for patients and medical malpractice attorneys alike. Receiving the wrong medication can have catastrophic consequences for surgery patients, and attorneys with experience in this area could seek civil remedies on their behalf by filing medical malpractice lawsuits against the health care practitioners and facilities involved.

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