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When can adverse medication events be prevented?

You need to undergo a procedure in a Washington hospital, but the idea of anesthesia makes you nervous. Should you be concerned? Patients Safety & Quality Healthcare reports that, according to one study, your chances of a medication mistake during pre-operative procedures is about one in 20. That same study indicated that there may be medication errors or bad reactions to drugs during about half of all surgeries.

Not all of these errors may cause problems, though. In the self-reported incidents of one large hospital, two-thirds of the mistakes did not lead to harm, although the potential was there. And while medication errors are preventable, you may still have a reaction to a medication that no one could have known about beforehand. Still, eliminating the potential for errors puts you in a much better position to recover from your procedure.

Labeling can go a long way toward making the administration of your medication safe. For example, the anesthesiologist should read the label carefully to make sure it is not a sound-alike or look-alike drug rather than the one needed. Although it may be helpful to have color-coded syringes arranged carefully on a tray, relying on the color and position rather than verifying the correct medication is in hand can lead to trouble. If your anesthesiologist assists in numerous procedures like yours every day, he or she could become complacent about the procedure and fail to pay full attention to the labels.

Other issues that lead to errors include chaos in the operating room, failure to act, missed doses and wrong timing of doses. This general information is educational in nature and should not be interpreted as legal or medical advice.