Mistakes are not something that we usually associate with the medical field. But medical mistakes do happen mainly because medical professionals are only humans who can err. In medical terms, they are called iatrogenic events, defined as unintended harm or suffering caused by health care. Medical mistakes are usually something that people associate with health care in developing and low-income countries where they lack the right infrastructure and trained personnel. The fact is, a lot of medical mix ups and mistakes in hospitals and clinics occur all over the world, including Europe and North America. One gets to wonder how many medical misadventures go unreported!
Medical misadventures are classified as Adverse Drug Events, Hospital Acquired Infections and Surgical Mistakes.
(1) Adverse Drug Events (ADEs) or medication mix ups are perhaps the most common. One of the most well-publicized medication mix ups was the case of Quaid twins who received the wrong dose of heparin. The newborn babies were reportedly given an excessive dose which was up to 1,000 times the normally prescribed dose. Fortunately, the error was detected early enough so that the Quaid twins, plus several other babies, could be saved. One must not forget that there are other adverse events besides drugs, as evidenced by the recently highly publicized excessive radiation exposure incident in California.
A study in France revealed that in the period January and September 2005, 267 cases of iatrogenic events happened to 116 newborn babies. 34% were preventable, 29% were severe, 2 cases were fatal, 34 cases were due to drugs and 19 cases were identified as medical errors. The study concluded that iatrogenic events occur frequently and are often serious in neonates, especially in infants of low birthweight.
A study in the US revealed that for every 100 children hospitalized, 11 drug-related mistakes can occur. About 500,000 children in the US suffer from drug mix ups. Less than 4% of medical mix ups are reported. And according to the 1991 Harvard Medical Practice Study, there is a 6.5% rate of ADEs among adult inpatients, 33% of which were considered preventable.
(2) Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs). Hospitals are not the cleanest of environments and all are actually the breeding ground for dangerous bugs. All too often, patients get the so-called Hospital-Acquired Infection (HAI) also known as nosocomial infection or healthcare-associated infections. According to the CDC, about 100,000 people die of HAIs due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In the US, the incidence of HAIs exceeds 2 million cases a year and an estimated expenditure of more than $4.5 billion is attributed to HAIs. Most are detected 48 hours after admission to the hospital. In a survey of patients from a pediatric ICU between 1992 and 1997, bacterial and fungal infections were reported as follows: Bloodstream infections – 28% Ventilator-associated pneumonia – 21% Urinary tract infection (UTI) – 15% Lower respiratory infection – 12% Gastrointestinal, skin, soft tissue, and cardiovascular infections – 10% Surgical-site infections – 7% Ear, nose, and throat infections – 7%. In fact, a French study …