Medication safety in neonatal care: a review of medication errors among neonates

Natalia Krzyzaniak*, Beata Bajorek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
216 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The objective of this study was to describe the medication errors in hospitalized patients, comparing those in neonates with medication errors across the age spectrum. Method: In tier 1, PubMed, Embase and Google Scholar were searched, using selected MeSH terms relating to hospitalized paediatric, adult and elderly populations. Tier 2 involved a search of the same electronic databases for literature relating to hospitalized neonatal patients. Results: A total of 58 articles were reviewed. Medication errors were well documented in each patient group. Overall, prescribing and administration errors were most commonly identified across each population, and mostly related to errors in dosing. Errors due to patient misidentification and overdosing were particularly prevalent in neonates, with 47% of administration errors involving at least tenfold overdoses. Unique errors were identified in elderly patients, comprising duplication of therapy and unnecessary prescribing of medicines. Overall, the medicines most frequently identified with error across each patient group included: heparin, antibiotics, insulin, morphine and parenteral nutrition. While neonatal patients experience the same types of medication errors as other hospitalized patients, the medication-use process within this group is more complex and has greater consequences resulting from error. Suggested strategies to help overcome medication error most commonly involved the integration of a clinical pharmacist into the treating team. Conclusion: This review highlights that each step of the medication-use process is prone to error across the age spectrum. Further research is required to develop targeted strategies relevant to specific patient groups that integrate key pharmacy services into wards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-119
Number of pages18
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Drug Safety
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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