Patient safety study provides first national estimate of adverse events in Canadian hospitals

NOTE: The embargo on this release has been lifted early.

This release is also available in French

The first national study of patient safety in Canadian hospitals estimates that 7.5 per cent of people hospitalized in Canada have experienced an adverse event as a result of their care.

"The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence of adverse events in hospital patients in Canada", to be published in the May 25 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that the overall rate of adverse events in 2000 was 7.5 per 100 patient admissions, not including pediatric, obstetric or psychiatric admissions. This rate suggests that 185,000 of the almost 2.5 million medical and surgical admissions in Canada in 2000 were associated with an adverse event defined as an unintended injury or complication resulting in death, disability or prolonged hospital stay caused by health care management rather than the patient's underlying condition.

Researchers from seven Canadian universities, led by the University of Toronto (U of T) and the University of Calgary (U of C), analysed the adverse event rate after reviewing 3,745 adult patient charts, randomly selected from 20 acute care hospitals across five provinces (B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia). The study also found that:

  • the majority of adverse events resulted in temporary disability or prolonged hospital stay
  • five per cent of patients who experienced adverse events were judged to have a permanent disability
  • adverse events were associated with death in 1.6 per cent of patients admitted to acute care hospitals
  • surgical care accounted for the largest number of adverse events
  • close to 37 per cent of adverse events in the study were potentially preventable. Based on this, the researchers estimate there were 70,000 preventable adverse events across the country


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