Frequency and classification of errors in laboratory medicine at a veterinary teaching hospital in the United States

Vet Clin Pathol. 2020 Jun;49(2):240-248. doi: 10.1111/vcp.12851. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


Background: The accuracy of laboratory data is of utmost importance. Data regarding laboratory error in human laboratories are often extrapolated into veterinary settings. One study investigated the rate and type of errors in a European commercial veterinary laboratory, but that data might not directly apply to an educational setting.

Objectives: This study determined the frequency and type of errors in laboratory medicine at a veterinary teaching hospital.

Methods: Errors associated with clinical pathology samples were recorded over two 60-day periods. The first period included a time when new students and house officers started at the veterinary school. The second time period was 6 months later. The errors were assigned to categories, and the frequency of each was calculated. Sample hemolysis, icterus, and lipemia were evaluated separately using an automated index, as these conditions could be pathologic or the result of error. Frequencies of error and hemolysis, icterus, and lipemia were assessed between the groups.

Results: Total error rates were 4.7% and 3.5% for the first and second periods, respectively. The frequency of each error subclassification was similar to those observed in the veterinary and human literature, with preanalytic error predominating. Statistically significant differences in the overall error rate and percentage of preanalytic errors that occurred outside of and within the laboratory were observed comparing differences between the two periods.

Conclusions: The overall error rate in this veterinary teaching hospital was slightly higher than that previously reported in other settings, although a proportion of errors was as expected. Areas needing improvement were identified, and strategies to reduce error could be developed.

Keywords: analytic; hemolysis; lipemia; mistakes; postanalytic; preanalytic.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hospitals, Animal / standards*
  • Hospitals, Teaching / standards*
  • Laboratories / standards*
  • Medical Errors / classification
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Errors / veterinary*
  • Pathology, Clinical / standards*