Medication errors at the administration stage in an intensive care unit

Intensive Care Med. 1999 Apr;25(4):353-9. doi: 10.1007/s001340050857.


Objective: To assess the type, frequency and potential clinical significance of medication-administration errors.

Design: Prospective study using the observation technique as described by the American Society of HealthSystem Pharmacists but eliminating the disguised aspect.

Setting: Medical intensive care unit (ICU) in a university hospital.

Patients and participants: 2009 medication administration interventions by nurses.

Interventions: Pharmacist-performed observation of preparation and administration of medication by nurses, comparison with the original medical order and comparison with the data available in the literature.

Measurements and results: 132 (6.6% of 2009 observed events) errors were detected. Their distribution is as follows: 41 dose errors, 29 wrong rate, 24 wrong preparation technique, 19 physicochemical incompatibility, 10 wrong administration technique and 9 wrong time errors. No fatal errors were observed, but 26 of 132 errors were potentially life-threatening and 55 potentially significant.

Conclusion: According to this first observation-based study of medication administration errors in a European ICU, these errors were due to deficiencies in the overall organisation of the hospital medication track, in patient follow-up and in staff training.

MeSH terms

  • France
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Medication Errors*
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / standards*
  • Observation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*