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Medication errors during surgery higher than once thought

New Mexico residents may be concerned to learn that studies the looking into medication errors made during surgery may have greatly underestimated the problem. Most previous research into this area has relied on reports made by surgical staff, and it generally concluded that errors were exceptionally rare, but a study based on direct observation found that mistakes are far more common. Researchers at a major Massachusetts hospital observed 277 surgical procedures over a seven-month period, and they say that they noticed a medication error in nearly 50 percent of them.

The research team say that patients being given an incorrect dose was the most common form of medication mistake observed, but labeling errors were also common. The researchers also saw patients who developed symptoms that went untreated as busy operating room staff focused on more pressing matters. About one-third of the errors observed caused harm to patients.

The research also reveals that the sophisticated electronic monitoring and barcoding of medications introduced by hospitals in recent years may not be as effective as once thought. The research team noticed that such safeguards are sometimes incompatible with the frantic atmosphere of operating rooms, and they also believe that the frequent introduction of new drugs and procedures can lead to uncertainty among surgical staff.

The Massachusetts study also concluded that about 80 percent of the medication errors noticed could have been prevented. Attorneys with experience in this area will likely not be surprised to learn that research based on self-reporting underestimates the scale of medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals are often loath to admit their mistakes, and attorneys advocating on behalf of the victims of these errors may call upon experts of their own to establish that it was negligence that harmed their clients.

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