The near-death experience of the newborn twins of actor Dennis Quaid along with a new study are highlighting the frequency of medication related harm to children in U.S. hospitals.
Researchers find that hospital mix-ups involving drugs affect about seven percent of hospitalized U.S. children. That translates to one in 15 hospitalized children or 540,000 kids each year.
The study is published in the April issue of Pediatrics.
In it, researchers at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, looked at a dozen hospitals around the country and selected at random 960 medical charts in 2002. Incidents were noted when there were “triggers” such as antidotes for a drug overdose, lab tests or unusual side effects.
In all, among 100 hospitalized children there were 11.1 adverse drug events. That is considered a more accurate number and is a steep jump from the previous estimate of 2 per 100.
New detection tools are credited with pinpointing these more accurate estimates.
"These data and the Dennis Quaid episode are telling us that ... these kinds of errors and experiencing harm as a result of your health care is much more common than people believe. It's very concerning," Dr. Charles Homer of the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality, which developed the detection tool, told Associated Press.
Among those adverse incidents, researchers found that 22 percent were preventable drug events, 17.8 could have been found sooner and 16.8 were not handled well.
Fortunately the vast majority 97 percent resulted in minor problems such as rashes and nausea from the misuse of antibiotics or pain medications.
But you might not ever know about the mix-up of drugs. The study finds that only 3.7 percent of the events ever find its way to traditional hospital reports.
In the very public case of the newborn twins of actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly, the trigger was the use of vitamin K.
That is a commonly given antidote for the overdose of heparin, the blood thinner, given to the twins at Cedars Sinai Hospital at a dose 1,000 times higher than intended. The twins began to bleed out through their nose and were given vitamin K.
The Quaids only discovered the medical error when they came to visit and saw the children bleeding profusely. They have filed a lawsuit against Baxter Healthcare for not correcting the similar blue labels on the low dose and high dose vials.
The Quaids made their story public recently on 60 Minutes and have organized a foundation to highlight the need to correct frequent medical errors, a leading cause of death in this country.
Dennis Quaid credits the new study with making the public aware about medical errors in children. He tells the AP “Every time a caregiver comes into the room, I would check and ask the nurse what they're giving them and why."
Researchers say this study encourages the need for aggressive solutions to and the prevention of medication-related harm to children.
The Quaid twins appear to have recovered and he told the Associated Press, “appear to be normal kids, very happy and healthy.” #