Incidence of medication errors


Intravenous literature: Wilmer, A., Louie, K., Dodek, P., Wong, H. and Ayas, N. (2010) Incidence of medication errors and adverse drug events in the ICU: a systematic review. Quality and Safety in Health Care 19, p.1-9.


Background: Medication errors (MEs) and adverse drug events (ADEs) are both common and under-reported in the intensive care setting. The definitions of these terms vary substantially in the literature. Many methods have been used to estimate their incidence.

Methods: A systematic review was done to assess methods used for tracking unintended drug events in intensive care units (ICUs). Studies published up to 22 June 2007 were identified by searching eight online databases, including Medline. In total, 613 studies were evaluated for inclusion by two reviewers.

Results: The authors selected 29 papers to analyse; all studies took place in an ICU, were reproducible and reported ICU-specific rates of events. Rates of MEs varied from 8.1 to 2344 per 1000 patient-days, and ADEs from 5.1 to 87.5 per 1000 patient-days. The definitions of ADE and ME in the studies varied widely.

Conclusions: Much variation exists in reported rates and definitions of ADEs and MEs in ICUs. Some of this variation may be due to a lack of standard definitions for ADEs and MEs, and methods for detecting them. Further standardisation is needed before these methods can be used to evaluate process improvements.


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