In a new study released this year by the Massachusetts General Hospital and published in the journal Anesthesiology, about half of all surgeries involve some kind of medication error and/or unintended side effects, resulting in a substantial potential for harm and much room for improvement.

Medical scrutiny has been focused on medical errors for the last 15 years; ever since the Institute of Medicine identified them as the leading cause of death—surpassing even auto accidents and breast cancer. Yet even though hospitals have taken certain measures to try and avoid some of these errors, medication mistakes made during surgery, specifically, still have not been adequately studied, to date.

Drugs Delivered During Operations versus Pharmacies

Although largely unknown to the public, drugs that are administered in conjunction with or during surgery do not go through the same rigor as those given out as medication in the form of a prescription. Obviously, pharmacists and nurses typically do not double-check them before they are administered in the operation room setting. And while the result of error in the context of the wrong drug being administered in the operating room is allegedly usually an elevated risk of infection and/or a change in vital signs, there are people who have lost loved ones as the result of a medication errors made before, during, or after routine surgeries, indicating that this is an area of patient harm that requires some serious reform as soon as possible.

Perhaps most alarmingly, for those drugs that are commonly used in every operation (such as anesthesia and antibiotics), the rate of error and/or adverse reaction was basically found in every other surgery (in other words, HALF of all surgeries). Some of the errors found were also due to improper labeling of drugs and longer surgeries (those that lasted over six hours) were found to carry a higher risk of error compared to shorter surgeries.


According to the study, hospitals need to improve safety by changing their processes and technology so that doctors are better alerted to potential mistakes lurking around the corner. Experts also suggest that perhaps switching to electronic medical records that are made accessible to nurses at all times could better ensure that administered medication is correct.

 Medical Malpractice Attorneys on Your Side

Typically, errors that take place during surgery are extremely consequential and carry a high risk of harm. And sadly, as indicated in this recent study, they are still fairly common.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of medical malpractice/negligence in the use of anesthesia, antibiotics, or other surgery-related drug administration, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dana & Dana, our interest is fighting for the victim. We have a history of helping those who have suffered as the result of medical malpractice and other acts of medical negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.