Hospitals urged to weigh patients in kilograms to avoid errors |
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Wes Venteicher

Patients stepping on hospital scales in Pennsylvania could start seeing much smaller numbers if hospitals heed a new Patient Safety Authority recommendation to use kilograms instead of pounds when weighing patients.

The authority has recommended all hospitals switch to metric scales to avoid mistakes measuring out doses of medicine, which in some cases are based on a person’s weight. Errors dosing chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners and other pharmaceuticals can make treatment less effective or put patients in danger, said Michelle Bell, director of outreach and education for the authority.

“It can really either cause sub-therapeutic issues or overdose issues,” Bell said.

The pronouncement, issued Sept. 8, is the first formal recommendation the authority has made since its 2002 inception, she said.

The authority received 1,291 reports of errors related to patient weights from December 2008 through November 2015, according to data on its website. Three hundred of the reports involved confusion between pounds and kilograms, according to the data. Eleven of those caused harm to patients, with one contributing to a death, Bell said.

The authority published articles in 2009 and 2016 on the errors, but the error rates didn’t drop after the articles so the authority took the step of making a formal recommendation, Bell said.

The state Department of Health supports the recommendation and encourages doctors and hospitals to follow it, a department spokesman said.

The authority recommended hospitals consider providing charts for patients to convert their weights to pounds, Bell said.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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