The Serious Effects of Anesthesia Error

Anesthetics are powerful drugs used to relax, paralyze or render a patient unconscious so as to numb away what may be excruciating pain during a surgical procedure or a dental procedure. Records which will show anesthesiologists committing errors are are not plentiful; however, anesthesiologists are also prone to mistakes which can very well risk the health and safety of their patients.

Anesthesia error is one example of medical malpractice that causes very serious harm in patients. The serious harmful effects of anesthesia error include ventilator dependence, airway trauma/damage, joint injury, nerve damage, spinal cord injury, brain damage, paralysis, stroke, heart attack or death.

Before delivering the proper dosage of the appropriate drug to a patient who will undergo surgery, it is necessary that an anesthesiologist knows a patient’s medical history. This will prevent such patient from suffering from any possible adverse effects the drug may cause in him/her. Once under anesthesia, the patient will have to be kept comfortable and safe at all times. This means making sure that the patient, who will undergo surgery, will have adequate oxygen levels and will not sustain any injuries, like joint injuries, which are very common results of patient’s joints being hyperextended or hyperflexed, especially during long surgeries.

Anesthesia may either be local or general. Local anesthesia is used to reduce or eliminate sensation in a particular area of the body; general anesthesia, on the other hand, is used to eliminate sensation in the whole body. General anesthesia usually induces loss of consciousness and halting of muscular reflexes.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists says that more than 40 million anesthetics are administered in the U.S. every year. Though generally safe and without side-effects, there are times when anesthesia errors are committed due to the following mistakes:

  • Use of defective equipment, such as vital sign monitors;
  • Failure to thoroughly review patient’s medical history;
  • Failure to monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and other vital signs;
  • Failure to monitor a patient before and during anesthesia;
  • Incorrect placement of catheter;
  • Incorrect airway management and intubation during general anesthesia; and,
  • Administration of insufficient doses of anesthesia.

Administering insufficient doses of anesthesia affects more than 40,000 patients in the U.S. every year. The consequence of this error is anesthesia awareness or awareness during surgery, a situation wherein a patient regains consciousness during a surgical procedure. This makes the patient feel the painful procedure he/she is undergoing, however, since he/she is may still be paralyzed due to the effect of the paralysis-inducing drug, he/she is unable to cry out (a paralysis-inducing drug is different from one that causes sedation).

Proving negligence as the cause of anesthesia error will not be easy. It will require thorough investigation of all those who were part of the surgical procedure to get from them all necessary information relevant to the case. Only if there is a way to prove negligence will the case be worth pursing.

Further information about anesthesia errors can be found click here.

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