Hard limits on IV pumps could prevent medication errors

The drug heparin is often used after a patient has surgery to prevent blood clots. It is also commonly used to break down blood clots in stroke patients. While there are many beneficial uses for heparin, administering too much of the powerful drug can cause internal bleeding and other serious problems for patients in Pittsburgh.

In the past, the IV pumps used to dispense heparin have been set with soft limits to prevent an excessive dosage mistake. If doctors or nurses program the pump to dispense too much of the prescription medication, an alarm would sound. But medical professionals hear so many different alarms throughout the day that they sometimes ignore the warning and override the soft limit. This could result in a patient receiving a dose of heparin as much as 45 times more than the recommended limit. Pharmacists at the Cleveland Clinic have improved safety on IV infusion pumps by creating hard limits, which cannot be overridden, to prevent potential dosage mistakes. It was reported that in 2010, medical professionals there overrode the soft limits in nearly 30 percent of cases. Pharmacists and nurses in other hospitals are urged to use hard limits as well.

If you hear an alarm when a nurse is programing an IV pump, it is a good idea to ask what the alarm is indicating and question the safety of the dosage being administered. Still there will be times when patients in Pittsburgh are unable to speak up, hard limits are not used or medication errors occur for other reasons. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a medication error, you may want to speak with a medical malpractice attorney regarding legal recourse.

Source: Pharmacy Practice News, “For Safer Smart Pumps, Setting Harder Drug Dose Limits Urged,” Ben Guarino, Dec. 2013.