Radiation overdose, alarm fatigue top list of health technology hazards

Considering that just last week, 700 healthcare providers at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference signed a pledge to use less radiation, it should come as no surprise that the No. 1 health technology hazard heading into 2011, according to the ECRI Institute's list of top 10 hazards, is radiation therapy overdose. 

"There's been a rapid growth in the number of treatment systems and an increase in their complexity," Jim Keller, ECRI's vice president for health technology evaluation and safety, told the Wall Street Journal

Alarm hazards caused by desensitization, or "alarm fatigue" ranked No. 2 on ECRI's list while cross-contamination from flexible endoscopes, last year's top hazard, ranked third. 

Flexible endoscope contamination issues "can inconvenience patients and create anxiety," the ECRI report says, according to WSJ. "[A]t worst, they can lead to life-threatening infections." 

High radiation doses of CT scans and data loss leading to repeated testing, injury or death rounded out the top five hazards. 

The rest of the top 10 hazards included: 

  • Luer misconnections: Essentially, tubes, needles and catheters incorrectly connected with one another.
  • Oversedation during use of patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) infusion pumps: Too much of a painkiller being administered to a patient on a medicine drip.
  • Needle sticks: Patients, providers or other staff members accidentally being stuck by needles.
  • Surgical fires: Which, according to WSJ, are nearly as common as wrong-site surgeries.
  • Defibrillator failures in emergency resuscitation attempts. 

For more information:
- here's the Wall Street Journal article
- check out this ECRI news release