Medical malpractice is an occurrence that is often directly related to negligence and anesthesia errors are no different.
Anesthesia is administered to patients in order to induce a temporary state of sensory loss before, during, and after a medical/surgical procedure. It is a common medical practice that dates back to the 1800s; however, despite procedural and technological improvements, and its long withstanding presence in the medical field, anesthesia complications can still occur. Complications can range from minor injuries to major complications, and even death.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Anesthesiology at Columbia University College of Physician and Surgeons, statistical data gathered from a limited number of hospitals during the period 1999 to 2005 concluded that there were 2,211 recorded anesthesia-related deaths. Of that 2,211, approximately 34 deaths were directly caused by anesthesia/anesthetics, and approximately 280 deaths in which anesthesia was a factor.
If an anesthesia error occurred as a result of the negligence of a healthcare professional, you should contact an anesthesia error lawyer as you could be entitled to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Types of Anesthesia
The type of anesthesia administered will depend on the type of procedure that will be performed. Additionally, it is the responsibility of healthcare professionals to determine if the kind of anesthesia administered is appropriate based on factors such as: the patient’s medical history, physical condition, age, etc.
Local Anesthesia – this type of anesthesia is administered as an injection or topically as a cream/ointment, gel, spray, or patch. It controls pain in a specific part of the body while the patient remains conscious.
General Anesthesia – this type of anesthesia is administered through inhalation or through an intravenous (IV) syringe or catheter. It induces unconsciousness during surgical procedures.
Regional Anesthesia – this type of anesthesia is administered as an injection near a cluster of nerves, which numbs the part of the body that will be undergoing surgery. Two common types of regional anesthesia are:
Epidural Anesthesia – administered as an injection near the sac of fluid around the spinal cord. It is used in conjunction with a catheter through which additional medicine can be delivered for pain management.
Spinal Anesthesia – administered as an injection near the sac of fluid around the spinal cord. Usually for simple procedures without the need for a catheter.
Monitored Anesthesia with Conscious Sedation combines a local anesthetic and a sedative, administered through an IV. The anesthesia controls the pain area while the conscious sedation allows the patient to stay awake, yet calm and relaxed.
Anesthetics can also be combined as needed. A Combination of General Anesthesia and a Regional Anesthesia, which is administered as an injection near the sac of fluid around the spinal cord, induces unconsciousness followed by a numbing of a specific area of pain.
Common Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia should be administered carefully with the same precision and attention as any medical procedure. By not taking necessary precautions, the potential for risk increases, all of which are avoidable with proper care and attention.
- Wrong dosage
- Too little anesthesia can lead to a patient waking up and becoming aware during surgery. With this occurrence, the patient may feel pain but is unable to communicate.
- Too much anesthesia can lead to a possible toxic overdose, which can lead to complications, such as: brain damage, respiratory problems, disability, or even wrongful death
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia – as with any medication, allergic reactions to anesthesia can occur. Allergic reactions can be as minor as a skin rash or major and potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, which can cause breathing difficulty or going into shock.
- Improper insertion of breathing tube, which is often part of the general anesthesia process.
- Nerve damage can occur during the process of administering regional anesthesia. It can cause debilitating long-term or lifelong pain.
- Chemicals entering the bloodstream is a risk factor associated with local and regional anesthesia.
- Adverse reaction between anesthesia and other medication
- Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
Common Causes of Anesthesia Errors
If an error occurs during the process of administering anesthesia, it is likely due to one or more of the following:
- Lacking qualified personnel
- Not conducting proper patient evaluation
- Failure to thoroughly review a patient’s medical history
- Failure to monitor the patient’s vitals while under anesthesia
- Defective equipment
Consequences of Anesthesia Errors
- Chronic pain that can be long-lasting or lifelong.
- Throat injury from breathing tube insertion during general anesthesia.
- Teeth damage from breathing tube insertion during general anesthesia.
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Cardiac arrest
- Brain damage
- Mental impairment
Contact an Anesthesia Error Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been struggling with health problems after undergoing anesthesia, then you may have been a victim of medical malpractice. When it comes to negligence, it is crucial that the healthcare professional in charge of your care be held accountable. Contact one of our anesthesia error lawyers to discuss your options. You may be entitled to compensation for medical costs, lost wages, or even a wrongful death suit.