ECRI Reveals Which General-Purpose Infusion Pumps Best Ensure Patient Safety

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. -- The October 2002 issue of ECRI's monthly journal, Health Devices, features the nonprofit organization's latest evaluation of more than two dozen general-purpose infusion pumps. This issue also includes an evaluation of one specialized pump, the Abbott Omni- Flow 4000 Plus. In addition to addressing the standard performance and human factors design issues, these studies place an unprecedented focus on patient safety, reflecting some exciting advancements in infusion pump technology. However, only a handful of pumps currently offer the full range of patient safety features that ECRI recommends.

The results of ECRI's testing reveal that most pumps perform reliably and accurately when properly used, but not all models offer the same level of protection against free-flow and other events that can lead to intravenous medication errors. ECRI notes that a few pumps incorporate a new type of safety feature that warns the user when a programmed dose falls outside predefined "safe" limits. ECRI states that this type of feature, which it calls a dose error reduction system, can significantly reduce pump-related medication errors. For this reason, ECRI now recommends that facilities consider only models that include an effective dose error reduction system for most new purchases. ECRI does stress, however, that most pumps that lack this feature are still safe to use. In addition, ECRI points out that although this feature is currently available on only a few models, additional suppliers are currently developing similar systems for their pumps.

ECRI's model-specific ratings for 26 of the infusion pumps marketed by Abbott, Alaris, B. Braun, Baxter, Deltec (Graseby), Medex, and Sigma, as well as detailed discussions of the medication safety issues that affect pump purchasing decisions, can be found in the October 2002 Health Devices.

Like all issues of the journal, the October Health Devices includes a section derived from ECRI's international Problem Reporting System. Articles in this section describe medical device hazards investigated by ECRI and include specific recommendations for action to help healthcare facilities minimize risks. This month's Problem Reporting section focuses on safety in the magnetic resonance (MR) environment. Discussed are the potentially lethal consequences of altering MR-compatible equipment and the distinctions between the types of oxygen cylinders that can and cannot be used in the MR environment.

The Health Devices journal is a component of the Health Devices System - a patient safety and quality resource for today's healthcare technology. This comprehensive, members-only system includes online access to the Health Devices journal, featuring brand-name comparative evaluations; Health Devices Alerts, which includes ECRI's keyword-searchable hazards and recalls database and a variety of specialized consultation services.