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ICU patients may be prone to medication errors

Medications can cure illnesses, prevent complications from chronic diseases and ease a patient's pain. However, medications also can cause harm to patients, particularly if they are not administered correctly by doctors and hospital staff. Medication errors are one of the most common doctor's errors that occur in every hospital in the U.S., including in Maryland.

The unexpected complications as a result of medication error continue to harm patients, according to a 2013 study published in Critical Care Medicine. According to the report, 537 U.S. hospitals voluntarily reported approximately 840,000 medication errors from 1999 to 2005. Of those errors, the study researchers noted that nearly 6.6 percent of the errors stemmed from intensive care units. Ninety-eight percent of these errors did not permanently harm or injure the patient. However, approximately four percent of the errors involving the ICU resulted in harm to patients, which is a higher percentage than the harm caused by medication errors to patients from the other hospital units. The study's authors stressed that the injuries or complications that resulted in ICU patients are not surprising, because those patients receive more intensive treatment than others. The researchers revealed that the errors resulted in a total of 110 patient deaths; 92 occurred in non-ICU wards of the hospital and 18 in ICUs.

The study also stated that a failure to administer the medication to the patient is the leading factor among the medication error cases. Many of the harmful mistakes involved medical devices such as IV lines and the incorrect calculation of medication doses.

Maintaining patient safety is not only about properly diagnosing a patient or performing the correct medical procedures. It is also about administering the correct dosage of medications to patients. A simple mistake can seriously affect a person's condition, as well as impact family members who trusted their loved one's care to the doctors and the hospital.

Source: Reuters, "Patients rarely told about medication errors: study," Jan. 14, 2013

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