Harmful errors in radiology suite top national database

March 1, 2006

The number of reported medication errors associated with radiological services is relatively small. The percentage of errors that result in patient harm, however, is alarmingly high, according to a report released in January by the United States Pharmacopeia.

The number of reported medication errors associated with radiological services is relatively small. The percentage of errors that result in patient harm, however, is alarmingly high, according to a report released in January by the United States Pharmacopeia.

Of the 2032 reported medication errors that occurred in radiological services between 2000 and 2004, 12% were categorized as harmful. This percentage is seven times higher than the percentage of harm seen in the overall USP data for the same five-year period, said lead author John P. Santell, director of USP educational program initiatives.

The American College of Radiology took issue with the report and its inclusion of errors occurring in cardiac cath labs. Fewer than 1% of all cardiac cath procedures are performed by radiologists. These labs had the highest percentage (40%) of medication errors cited in the report. Other areas reviewed were radiology and nuclear medicine.

The ACR also noted that the error rate of 0.00008% is more than 3700 times better than the lowest hospital-wide medication error rate (0.3%) cited by a recent Institute of Medicine report on this issue.