Assessing the Prevalence of Medication Errors in Pediatric Care

Pediatric patients taking 4 or more medications were more likely to experience medication errors.

Although medication errors are not always serious, they represent an example of human error in patient care and are a high priority problem. Medication errors represent a significant portion of all medical errors. A medication error can occur at various times, such as prescribing, administering, or monitoring. A poster presented at the Pediatric Pharmacy Association annual meeting in Norfolk, Virginia, aimed to estimate the prevalence and establish patterns of medical errors among pediatric patients in tertiary and pediatric hospitals.

Investigators conducted a multicenter retrospective study in 3 hospitals in western Saudi Arabia, including 1 specialized pediatric hospital and 2 general tertiary care hospitals. Medical error report data for children aged 13 years or younger admitted to the emergency department, outpatient clinics, child care or general ward from January 2019 to December 2019 were collected.

The researchers identified 318 medical errors in participating hospitals: 135 at Hospital 1, 93 at Hospital 2 and 90 at Hospital 3, for an error prevalence of 0.9 per 1000 patients. The prevalence was significantly lower in Hospitals 2 (0.35/1000 patients) and 3 (1.73/1000 patients) compared to Hospital 1 (3.5/1000 patients). Admissions departments had the highest rates of medical errors at 14.69/1000 patients, while the emergency department had the lowest rate (0.14/1000 patients).

Boys were slightly more likely to be affected by medical errors than girls. Two age groups were also significantly more likely to be affected: 1 month to 2 years and 6 to 12 years. There were comorbidities in 60.4% of cases, including mental disability in 7.2%. When errors occurred, the patient had 4 or more medications prescribed (71.1%). Many errors occurred during prescription (81.1%) and were caused by physicians (83.3%); they were most often caught by pharmacists (85.5%). The most common medical errors were inappropriate dose (34.0%), frequency (14.2%) and duration (10.4%).

Investigators concluded that there was a high prevalence of medical errors and errors in tertiary care hospitals, accounting for 2-4% of hospital admissions. Independent double checks, good reconciliation of new prescriptions with previous orders and optimization of labeling are ways to prevent medication errors from affecting patients.


1. Alotaibi M, Bajammal M, Shukry M, Althqafi N, Alghamdi S. Prevalence of medication errors and detrimental error factors in neonates and pediatrics in tertiary and pediatric hospitals: a multicenter study. Presented at the 2022 Pediatric Pharmacy Association Annual Meeting; May 3-6, 2022; Norfolk, Virginia.

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