Medical Malpractice: Thousands of Patients Harmed by Intravenous Drug Errors Every Year

Modern medication is an incredible tool – particularly in the field of anesthesia. Many intravenous drugs (IV drugs) make major surgical operations and other invasive medical procedures bearable for patients. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, medical professionals and health care providers fail to take the proper safety precautions.

Anesthesia errors remain a serious problem. In fact, anesthesiologist negligence is one of the most common bases cited in medical malpractice claims in New York. One of the primary problems is that anesthesiologists, nurses, and medical providers fail to put patient safety first when using ‘high alert’ intravenous medications.

Errors in IV Medication Administration Are a Significant Health Care Problem

An intravenous medication (IV medication) is a drug that is given by an injection or by an infusion. Anesthesiologists often administer IV drugs to their patients to help them deal with their condition. Alarmingly, these medications are associated with high error rates and considerable risks. These drugs need to be handled with the utmost level of care.

According to a report from Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), a federal government study estimates that there are 1.5 million preventable adverse drug reactions in the United States each year. Notably, IV drugs are highly overrepresented among these errors. The APSF report lists 20 different intravenous medications as being ‘high alert’ drugs. This is done on the account that these medications are associated with a heightened risk of harmful drug errors or adverse complications. Here are the top five:

  • Morphine sulfate;
  • Heparin;
  • Hydromorphone;
  • Insulin; and
  • Vancomycin.

Only Half of Anesthesia Medication Errors Occur During Administration

To better understand how anesthesia medication errors occur, public researchers studied a database of more than 70,000 incidents. In doing so, they determined that half of all anesthesia drug errors occurred at the point of administration. Surprisingly, the other half of errors occurred at other points in the process. As an example, a patient may be misdiagnosed and given the improper treatment. Alternatively, a mistake may be made regarding the dosage or specific medication that was appropriate for the patient.

By their very nature, IV drugs are powerful. While they can be a great source of good for patient care, they are extraordinarily dangerous—potentially even life threatening. More needs to be done to ensure that anesthetic medications are prescribed, prepared, and administered in the proper manner. Anesthesiologists and health care providers have a responsibility to provide people with reliable care. Patient safety and well-being should always come first.

Call Our Medical Negligence Attorneys for Immediate Help

At Richmond Vona, LLC, our New York medical malpractice lawyers have the skills and expertise to represent victims of anesthesia errors. If you or your family member was harmed by an anesthesiologist’s error, we are here to help. For a free, no commitment review of your case, please contact our Buffalo office now. We handle medical malpractice claims throughout Western New York, including in Rochester, Kenmore, Williamsville, East Amherst, and Bennington.