According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, children with chronic medical conditions are more likely to be affected by medical errors while hospitalized.

The study examined a government database of children hospitalized in 38 different states in 2006. A total of 44% of the children had at least one chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, or cancer. The overall medical error rate was 3%.

The rate was 1.3% in patients with no chronic conditions, but jumped to 5.3% in children with a chronic condition. Even when the statistics were adjusted for patient characteristics, hospital characteristics, disease severity, and length of stay, the association between chronic conditions and medical errors remained statistically significant. In addition, the likelihood of a medical error occurring increased with the number of chronic conditions from which the patient suffered.

Researchers speculated that the reason for this increase may be that children with more health issues stay in the hospital longer or require more complicated treatments. The errors were not necessarily mistakes per se, the researchers noted, but also included things like adverse reactions to medications, infections following surgery, and even bedsores.

While the study did not look at possible solutions for the problem, the researchers noted that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has been funding projects to improve hospital safety and reduce common complications such as infections.

One of the researchers, Huiyun Xiang, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, warned parents to keep the study results in context, and noted that even the 5.3% rate of errors among children with chronic conditions was still relatively low.