Antipsychiatric Medication Errors in Children Boarded in a Pediatric Emergency Department

Usha Sethuraman, Nirupama Kannikeswaran, Ahmad Farooqi, Kimone Richards, James Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Mental health visits to the pediatric emergency department (PED) have increased significantly. Our objective was to describe medication errors in children with mental health illness who were boarded in a PED for more than 6 hours. Methods We conducted a retrospective study from 2014 to 2015 of children 6 to 18 years with psychiatric complaints and a length of stay of more than 6 hours. Admitted patients and those not on home medications were excluded. We collected demographics, number, types, and doses of antipsychiatric medications and errors. Results A total of 676 patients (53.1% males) with a median age of 14 (interquartile range, 12, 15) years were included. The median length of stay was 11.7 (interquartile range, 8.5, 20.5) hours. A total of 974 medication errors occurred in 491 (72.7%) patients. Omission errors were noted in 376 patients (76.6%), commission in 44 patients (9.0%), and both in 71 patients (14.4%). Among commission errors, 8 (18.1%) were serious and 8 (18.1%) were significant. One third of patients (30.5%) had 1 medication error, 23.9% had 2, 11.7% had 3, and 5% had 4. Medication errors were most commonly noted in antidepressant and antipsychotic classes. One third (35.8%) of errors involved 2 medication classes. Being on 3 (odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.09-2.9) or 4 or more (odds ratio, 2.81; 95% confidence interval, 1.54-5.34) antipsychiatric medications was significantly associated with a prescription error. Conclusion There is a high incidence of medication errors, particularly those of omission, among antipsychiatric prescriptions in children boarded in the PED. A refinement of current medication reconciliation and integration of psychiatric medication databases between the PED and pharmacies are urgently needed to reduce these errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E538-E542
JournalPediatric Emergency Care
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • boarding
  • medication errors
  • psychiatric medications


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