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Drug error in one out of every two patients undergoing surgery

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There`s a medication error or a serious reaction to a drug in one out of every two patients having surgery, shocking new figures have revealed.

Around a third of the incidents involved a serious reaction to a drug that harmed the patient, although none were fatal, say researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital.

The errors were recorded when they observed 277 operations at the hospital, even though it had introduced more stringent patient safety measures. They disclose a far more worrying picture than previous data suggested, which had been self-reported by doctors.

There was a medication error or an adverse reaction to a drug in 124 of the 277 surgeries randomly selected for observation between November, 2013 and June the following year.

Around 80 per cent of the errors were preventable, the researchers said, and included wrong labelling, an incorrect dose, and even failing to prescribe a drug when all the symptoms suggested one was needed.

(Source: Anesthesiology, 2015; doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000000904)

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