To determine the incidence and causes of adverse drug events (ADEs) and potential ADEs in hospitalized children, and to examine the consequences of these events.
Prospective review of medical records and staff interviews were performed. The ADEs were defined as injuries from medications or lack of an intended medication, and potential ADEs, as errors with the potential to result in injury.
A general pediatric unit and a pediatric intensive care unit in a metropolitan medical center.
A total of 1197 consecutive patient admissions were studied from September 15, 2000, to May 10, 2001. The admissions represented a total of 922 patients and 10 164 patient-days.
The ADEs (6/100 admissions, 7.5/1000 patient-days) and potential ADEs (8/100 admissions, 9.3/1000 patient-days) were common in hospitalized children. Demographic variables associated with the occurrence of these events were the length of hospital stay, case-mix index, and amount of medication exposure. After adjusting for length of stay, medication exposure continued to have a significant influence on ADEs and potential ADEs. For ADEs, 18 (24%) were judged to be serious or life threatening. Most ADEs were not associated with major or permanent disability. Patients with both ADEs and potential ADEs were less likely to be routinely discharged and more likely to be discharged with home health care or to another institution, suggesting that patient disposition was not related to the adverse event.
Both ADEs and potential ADEs are common among hospitalized children with greater disease burden and medication exposure. These findings suggest that these events were a consequence, rather than a cause, of more severe illness.