- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) Reported medical errors affect less than 3 percent of hospitalized children nationwide but are more common in complex cases like last month's heart-lung transplant that ended with a teenager's death, a study suggests.
Jesica Santillan died Feb. 22 after receiving a heart-lung transplant from a donor with the wrong blood type. Doctors at Duke University Medical Center acknowledged the error, but a second transplant failed to save the girl.
The study lacked specifics about cases it analyzed, but specialists say errors involving mismatched blood types in transplants are rare.
It found that errors occurred in about 11 percent of cases involving children with complex medical conditions, which include organ transplants and cancer. Results are based on data from 1988, 1991, 1994 and 1997. About 900 hospitals nationwide and more than 1 million children each year were involved.
The researchers said the true number of mistakes affecting hospitalized children is likely to be higher because they "are undoubtedly underreported in administrative databases."
Their report appears in the March edition of Pediatrics, being published today. Dr. Anthony Slonim of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., led the research.
Dr. Slonim said the study will help doctors "target a group of children who may be at particular risk for medical errors during hospitalization and create systems that will provide safeguards against their occurrence."
The study found that most errors were related to "procedural complications," including mechanical problems with devices such as breathing tubes or ventilators.
Deaths were more common among children subjected to errors than among those who weren't, but co-author Dr. Jill Joseph, also at Children's National Medical Center, said the researchers don't know if any of the deaths were caused by error. She also said it is not certain how many of the errors might have been preventable.
Dr. Dan Stryer of the government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, who was not involved in the research, called the rates "unacceptable."
"We have to continue working to try to eliminate errors," Dr. Stryer said.

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