Introduction: Medication-related errors pose a risk to children, but accurate data regarding errors with clinically significant outcomes are not available. We attempt to describe errors, identify patterns of error, and find targets for prevention using a large series of pediatric therapeutic errors with severe outcomes.
Methods: A national, retrospective poison center chart review study including all cases of severe injury or death from therapeutic error involving children less than 6 years which were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers from 2000-2004 was performed.
Results: Among 272 cases identified, 238 were included in analysis and 34 were excluded; 162 cases occurred in the home and 70 in health care facilities. Significant errors disproportionately affected children less than 1 year (107/238 cases, 45%). The majority of errors were due to excessive dosing (171/238, 72%). Common mechanisms of error were identified: 10-fold errors, confusion about formulation or units of measure, increased frequency, and adult dosing.
Conclusions: The recurring circumstances underlying many of these errors suggest that preventing such errors may require systemic/process changes.