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Int J Cancer. 2009 Feb 1;124(3):722-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23991.

Chemotherapy safety and severe adverse events in cancer patients: strategies to efficiently avoid chemotherapy errors in in- and outpatient treatment.

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Department of Hematology and Oncology, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


To enhance the quality and safety in cancer treatment, and in acknowledgement that medical errors occur, we have established 2 error management systems: one monitors chemotherapy errors, the other records all severe adverse events occurring in chemotherapy-treated cancer patients (SAECTx) in in- and outpatient treatment. These error systems have been implemented by our departmental "Clinical Service Center," a multidisciplinary team which controls all chemotherapy protocols and orders prior to the medication reaching the patient. We performed a prospective cohort study in consecutive cancer patients who received chemotherapies in our department between January 2005 and December 2006. Over this 2-year period, 2,337 patients were treated, with an equal distribution as in- and outpatients: 22,216 consecutive chemotherapy orders were analyzed, of which 83.5% were completely flawless, whereas we detected and corrected medical and administrative errors in 17.1%: in 3.8%, these errors involved the chemotherapy itself, in 4.5% the patient data and in 8.7% missing written informed consent forms. Chemotherapy errors were less frequent in outpatients than inpatients (3.3 vs. 4.5%, respectively). In outpatients, the rate of chemotherapy errors decreased from 4% in 2005 to 2.8% in 2006, but remained stable for inpatients (4.4% 2005 vs. 4.7% 2006). Among a total of 3,792 detected errors, only 3 reached the patient, resulting in an error rate in patients of 0.079%. Therefore, since we detected a substantial number of chemotherapy-related errors and intercepted 99.9%, we recommend our efficient surveillance system as an important safety check, thereby ensuring that chemotherapies are delivered error-free to cancer patients.

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