Majority of Infant Deaths Due to Medical Error Preventable
Medical errors (Iatrogenic events) among newborns are common and often preventable according to a recent article in the journal Lancet.
In the report To Err is Human, medical errors were estimated to have caused 44,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. A similar Canadian study estimated medical errors kills 24,000 Canadians each year.
However, available reports have focused mainly on adults and (older) pediatric patients, not newborn babies, who are a high-risk group.
The authors of the study found that the main risk factors for new borns who experienced a medical error were low birthweight and gestational age; length of hospital stay; a central venous line; mechanical ventilation; and support with continuous positive airway pressure.
“This study allows the cause, severity, and preventability of iatrogenic events in neonatology to be defined,” the authors said. “A third of all iatrogenic events and more than a quarter of severe iatrogenic events were preventable. Iatrogenic events seem to be less preventable in neonates that in adults and children, in whom 40-60% of adverse events are preventable.”
The authors of the Lancet article conclude that 40-60% of adverse events (medical errors) are preventable. The Canadian study estimated that 37% of adverse events were “highly” preventable. Unfortunately there are no Canadian standards that require the reporting of medical errors.
Clearly Hospitals in Canada and the U.S. have significant room to improve patient safety.
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