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Study points to potential cause of errors in prescription doses for infants

A recent study examines the potential dosing errors that can occur when medical facilities attempt to administer very small but very precise amounts of powerful medications. Infants, particularly newborns and those that are very small, may require doses of powerful medications in amounts of less than 0.1 milliliters, unfortunately it is difficult to accurately measure amounts this small using current equipment, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study reviewed over 70,000 intravenous medication doses given to infants and children in intensive care units in 2006, according to an article from Bloomberg News. The researchers found that about 7% of infants and children needed injections of less 0.1 mL. More than 17% of them required injections of less than 0.2 mL.

The medications that most often require such small doses are some of the most potent, including morphine, lorazepam and fentanyl. Commercially available supplies of these solutions are highly concentrated.

Unfortunately when such small amounts of these powerful drugs are required, doctors may not be able to ensure that amounts administered are precisely correct. One of the researchers explains why dosing errors can occur when attempting to prepare these medications for infants, "current equipment does not permit the accurate measurement of volumes less than 0.1 mL."

Such small doses are commonly needed for newborns and young children in pediatric hospitals across North America. The researchers concluded that due to the potential for error, there should be a review of equipment manufacturing procedures, preparation methods and regulations.

Source: Bloomberg News Preparing Small Doses of Medication From Syringes Called Risky January 24, 2011

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