Many people are nervous before “going under” during surgery. As patients, we worry about potential side effects and complications. However, we should not have to worry that our anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists will make a mistake when administering the anesthesia. Unfortunately, serious anesthesia errors do occur.
While the number of anesthesia errors has gone down in recent years, approximately one in 250,000 anesthetizations results in a fatal complication. Anesthesia error attorneys, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation and other patient safety advocates around the United States are working to promote patient safety during anesthetization and reduce preventable anesthesia errors.
What Is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is meant to control pain, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and more. There are three types of anesthesia used during medical procedures:
- Local anesthesia, which only affects the surgical area, is used for minor surgical procedures.
- Regional anesthesia affects a larger portion of the body, blocking a group of nerves (peripheral nerve blocks) or affecting a significant area of the spinal cord (epidural and spinal anesthesia).
- General anesthesia is what most people think about when they hear the word “anesthesia.” General anesthesia affects a patient’s body and brain so that the patient is practically unconscious during the surgery.
Types of Anesthesia Mistakes
There are multiple ways that an anesthesia error can occur, including:
- Improper patient monitoring: During surgery, an anesthesiologist must pay attention to a patient’s vitals, such as his or her blood pressure, heart rate and level of consciousness. To leave a patient unattended or fail to properly monitor the patient can lead to serious injury.
- Improper anesthesia dosage: Mislabeling and other serious mistakes can lead to giving a patient too much or too little anesthesia. The anesthesia may also be delivered too slowly, causing serious problems.
- Failure to properly communicate: Communication errors between the patient and medical personnel can lead to a wide variety of complications during anesthetization.
- Improper intubation: Intubation is required to help patients breath when they are under. A mistake during intubation can cause serious injury and death.
On a broader level, anesthesia errors can be caused by significant problems in the healthcare system, such as a shortage of anesthesiologists (one anesthesiologist could watch multiple patients, relying on nurse anesthetists to keep the individual patients safe) and sleep deprivation from working long hours.
There is no excuse for an anesthesia error, especially when it leads to patient injury. If you or a family member has been injured by a surgical error, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Ohio anesthesia error attorney or a medical malpractice lawyer near you.
Source: WebMD, “Anesthesia – Topic Overview”