Study Finds That Poor Medication Labeling May Put Patients At Risk For Anesthesia Errors

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Study Finds That Poor Medication Labeling May Put Patients At Risk For Anesthesia ErrorsIt takes years of specialized training to become an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. Patients expect that these medical professionals will use that specialized training to ensure that they do not feel any pain during an operation, and that they will wake up from surgery better than they were before the procedure.

Because of the advanced education that anesthesiologists receive, patients expect that if a mistake is made, it would be due to the complicated nature of the profession. However, according to a recent study, many anesthesia mistakes may simply be the result of poorly-designed labels.

About the Study

In a study published by the Journal of Patient Safety, researchers conducted an experiment on 96 anesthesiology and nurse anesthetist students. The researchers, inspired by a real life situation where an IV bag of painkillers (lidocaine) was almost substituted for a drug which prevents shock after blood loss (hetastarch), wanted to tests the students’ abilities to tell different drugs apart from each other.

In the experiment, the students were ask to simulate two rounds surgical procedures using these two drugs. During the rounds, the two drugs were “accidentally” stocked next to each other in same drawer of a surgical cart.

In the first round, the drugs were labeled using standard IV bag labels. The standard labels are printed on a transparent background, which makes all of the IV bags look the same, and makes the name of the drug difficult to read. In the second round, the labels on the drugs were printed on an opaque, darker background which caused the text to stand out.

The difference in the labels had a definite effect on the students’ performances. In the first round with the standard labels, only 40% of students chose the correct medication. In the second round with the opaque labels, 63% of students chose the correct IV bag, making them 2.61 times more likely to pick the right medication.

Patient Safety Demands Small Changes

When something as simple as changing the background color on a label can make health care professionals less likely to make a mistakes, patients should demand that that these small changes be implemented in the name of general safety.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of patients are injured by medication errors, including errors committed by an anesthesiologist. When the anesthesiologist chooses the wrong medication, the patient may suffer from complications like strokes, heart attacks, brain damage, coma, or death.

When these errors cause a patient harm, he or she may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages for medical practice. If you suspect that there may have been an error during your surgery, it is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our attorneys help people injured by anesthesia errors or mistakes. If you were injured by medical negligence or malpractice, our experienced staff of legal and medical professionals can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights. If you would like to speak with a knowledgeable Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney, contact Dr. Bradley I. Kramer, Esq. today by calling (310) 289-2600 or use our online case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed for free.

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