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Medication errors cause near fatality in one patient

A recent report may unnerve some recent hospital patients. Though the report comes from outside of Chicago, it does not mean that medical professionals at hospitals in the area are incapable of making a similar mistake. According to the aforementioned report, nurses at a hospital in Pennsylvania were to blame for medication errors that could have caused serious complications.

An investigation conducted by the state's health department found that two patients had received 10 times the correct dosage of two separate drugs. According to reports, this is not the first time that such an occurrence has happened at the hospital. A few months before these two incidents, three patients overdosed on pain medication while using self-controlled pumps.

Instead of self-controlled pumps, the most recent overdoses were administered through infusion pumps that were manually set by nursing staff. One of the drug overdoses almost caused a fatal drop in blood pressure.

According to records, the patient was receiving the anesthetic Propofol intravenously. That patient had just gone through surgery and awoke on Feb. 7 in an agitated state. To counteract this agitation, a nurse increased the amount of the anesthetic being administered by the pump. Instead of increasing it to 68 milligrams per hour, the dosage was increased to 680 milligrams per hour.

After 20 minutes of this dosage, the patient's blood pressure had dropped into the 50s. Luckily, it was caught before long and hospital staff administered medication to bring the patient's blood pressure back to normal.

In the other case, a prescription made by a doctor requested that a patient receive 5 milliliters of heparin per hour. The drug, used as an anticoagulant, was being administered at 50 milliliters per hour and hospital staff had to administer a different medication to reverse the effects. This mistake was not uncovered until shifts changed.

The report issued by state investigators was dated in March but was not released to the public until late April.

Source: WFMZ, "Officials: Nursing errors led to overdoses at St. Luke's," Catherine Hawley, April 26, 2012

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