use of fast but inaccurate blood monitors could harm patients

A common medical practice of anesthesiologists and other medical professionals may be dangerous enough to be extremely harmful – perhaps even negligent. A new study from researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine offers strong criticism of the common practice of using inexpensive monitors to keep track of patients’ blood sugar levels during surgery.

The monitors are meant for home use and are not made for use by professionals during medical procedures. The readings on the monitors are not reliable and could lead to anesthesia errors, according to the study.

According to head researcher Dr. Mark J. Rice, the home glucose-level meters are “Faster and cheaper, but they’re not always accurate. They were regulated and approved for home use, then in stealth fashion they ended up in the hospitals.”

The inaccurate readings that the over-the-counter monitors give could prove to be very harmful to patients. If, for example, a home-use meter gave an inaccurately high reading, the anesthesiologist depending on that reading would believe he or she should give their patient insulin. The administration of insulin could lower the patient’s blood sugar to an unhealthy level, which could cause damage to the patient’s central nervous system.

Conversely, the effects of an inaccurately low reading from the meters could include altered consciousness and impaired healing of wounds.

Readings from some home-use meters differed by as much as 32% from values obtained in a central laboratory, according to one study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is always possible for anesthesiologists to send surgical patients’ blood samples to the lab during surgery, but the test results may not come back quickly enough to alert them to a metabolic imbalance. That is the appeal of the home-use monitors: they give results quickly. The problem is that if the results are inaccurate, the speed is not helpful.

Even when medical personnel have good reasons for wanting to use a certain type of medical device, they have to be aware of the drawbacks of those devices. Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys would point out that wanting fast results for a patient’s benefit is no excuse for accepting and using inaccurate results that cause unnecessary and avoidable harm to a patient.

Source: Suncoast News “Study warns of using home blood sugar meters in surgery” 1/28/2011

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