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Opioid-related harm in a quaternary pediatric hospital: A 5-year review

David Greaney, MB BCh, BAO, FRCA, MSc, FJFICMI, Renu Roy, BSP, MSc, RPh, Conor McDonnell, MD, MB BCh, BAO, FFARCSI


Background: Opioid therapy in pediatrics may be particularly prone to error, yet the incidence of opioid-related medication error and harm has not yet been described in the pediatric inpatient setting.

Methods: We reviewed a prospectively compiled medication safety database from November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2017. Reports originated from voluntary reporting, hospital code events, naloxone administrations, and reports of unexpected experiences of patient pain. Time, location, error characteristics, drug, route, prescription, error phase, mechanisms, harm, and outcome were collected for all reports. Error and harm were classified by the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP) system.

Results: Over 697 opioid medication safety reports were included during the study period. Opioids were administered at a rate of 79.26 administrations per 100 patient bed days, with morphine and hydromorphone administered at 62 versus 15 administrations per 100 bed days, respectively. Overall error rate was 0.94 errors per 1,000 patient days. Although the absolute rate of error reporting was greater for morphine (0.65 errors reported per 1,000 opioid administrations) than for hydromorphone, the adjusted incidence of harm was 0.211 per 1,000 hydromorphone administrations compared to 0.086 per 1,000 morphine administrations. 47 opioid errors resulted in harm, and administration errors (29) were almost twice as common as prescribing errors (15).

Conclusions: We report and aim to establish a comparative reference point for incidence of opioid-related error and harm adjusted for both hospital bed days and total opioid administrations within the pediatric hospital inpatient setting based on the above findings.


opioid, pediatrics, harm

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