Intended for healthcare professionals


Drug administration errors in anaesthesia and beyond

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 22 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5823
  1. Guy Haller, consultant and senior lecturer1,
  2. François Clergue, professor and director1
  1. 1Department of Anaesthesia, Pharmacology and Intensive Care, Geneva University Hospitals, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
  1. guy.haller{at}

Innovative systems can work, but only if they are fully adopted by clinicians

No anaesthetist will complete a career without encountering a drug error. For each anaesthetic procedure performed, the risk of such an error occurring is 0.01-0.75%.1 Drug errors in anaesthesia are mainly errors of drug administration because, except for preoperative or postoperative care, anaesthetists do not prescribe drugs. In operating theatres, they select, prepare, label, and administer all the drugs needed for the procedure. As a result, commonly known strategies to minimise errors in the prescription of drugs in hospitals, such as computerised physician order entry and decision support systems, are of little use in anaesthesia.2

In the linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.d5543), Merry and colleagues test a new system designed to tackle this problem.3 Their randomised trial on more than 1075 anaesthetised patients compared a new multimodal system they developed with conventional drug administration. The new system was based on the best evidence based practices designed to minimise administration errors,4 and …

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