Review article: improving drug safety for patients undergoing anesthesia and surgery

Orser BA, Hyland S, U D, Sheppard I, Wilson CR. (2013) Can J Anaesth. 60(2):127-35.


PURPOSE: This article presents a summary of recent advances, including tools and interventions, that are designed to improve drug safety for patients in critical care settings, particularly those undergoing anesthesia and surgery.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Medication error remains a leading cause of adverse events among patients undergoing anesthesia. Misidentification of ampoules, vials, and syringes is a common source of error. Systems are now being engineered to reduce the likelihood of medication misidentification through approaches such as revision of standards for labelling of drug ampoules and vials and the development of bar code systems that allow “double checking” or drug verification in the operating room. Also, efforts are being made to improve medication reconciliation, a process for accurately communicating a patient’s medication information during transitions from one healthcare setting to another. Finally, the opportunity exists for anesthesiologists to increase awareness about the rising problem of opioid addiction in patients for whom typical doses are initially prescribed for appropriate indications such as postoperative pain.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need to improve drug delivery systems in complex critical care environments, particularly the operating room. Anesthesiologists must continue to play a leading role in promoting drug safety in these environments.

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