The administration of anesthesia is a vital component of many medical procedures, since it prevents patients from feeling pain. Unfortunately, the use of anesthesia is not without risk. If it is not properly administered, it could have fatal consequences.
Patients and their families have the right to know if a mistake was made and if the anesthesiologist or the hospital could be held accountable for a negligent anesthesia error.
A study published in the journal Anesthesiology found that anesthesia or anesthetics are reported as the underlying cause in approximately 34 deaths and contributing factors in another 281 deaths every year in the United States. Of the 2,211 recorded anesthesia-related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2005, 46.6 percent related to overdose of anesthetics, 42.5 percent were attributed to adverse effects of anesthetics in therapeutic use, 3.6 percent involved complications of anesthesia during pregnancy, labor, and puerperium, and 7.3 percent were attributed to other complications of anesthesia.
Most Common Anesthesia Errors
The correct administration of anesthesia requires instructions to the patient, delivery of the correct dose, checking for adverse reactions, and constant monitoring while the patient is under anesthesia.
Some common errors that could affect anesthesia patients include:
Improper Dosage — While too small a dose can result in anesthesia awareness, where the patient can feel pain but is not able to speak or move, too big a dose can cause permanent damage to the body, including death.
Injection Speed — Faster injections lead to greater anesthetic effects and also impact a patient’s blood pressure.
Incorrect Type of Anesthetic — Different anesthetics are used for different procedures. Some patients may have allergies or be taking drugs that could react negatively with certain types of anesthetics.
Failure to Monitor— Medical professionals could be liable for their failure to notice certain signs, such as heart rate or blood pressure issues, that indicate problems with the anesthesia.
Improper Ventilation — Ventilators such as mechanical thumbs, minute volume dividers, bag squeezers, or intermittent blowers may malfunction either because of mechanical or human error.
Failure to Properly Prepare Patient Before Surgery — A provider could also be liable for failure to take preoperative steps such as having patients stop taking certain medications.
Improper Intubation — When the tube is placed into the patient’s trachea (windpipe) to administer drugs, it needs to remain in place to avoid serious dangers.
Anesthesia errors can occur during general anesthesia, intravenous sedation (IV sedation), monitored anesthesia care (MAC), regional anesthesia, or local anesthesia.
Common Causes of Anesthesia Errors
Some of the most common reasons for anesthesia errors include:
Lack of Training or Inexperience — Too many technicians lack sufficient knowledge and skills when it comes to anesthesia, which can cause a number of errors.
Poor Communication — Anesthesiologists are just one of the many medical professionals who might care for you during the treatment process. If there is any miscommunication among doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists, you could end up receiving the wrong type or dosage of anesthesia.
Carelessness — Many errors fall under the broad category of carelessness. If a technician fails to communicate with the patient, thoroughly read the patient’s chart, understand the full scope of the situation before administering anesthesia, or if they make other similar errors, disastrous consequences could follow.
The results of these mistakes could have a lasting impact on the patient and their family. Anesthesia errors could cause damage to the heart, brain, and other vital organs. In certain cases, patients could suffer from lack of oxygen to the brain (known as hypoxia) and could suffer brain death. Other commonly reported complications include stroke, paralysis, malignant hypothermia, and other serious conditions.
Anesthesia that is improperly administered to pregnant mothers during labor and delivery could lead to cerebral palsy in the child.
Because the consequences of an anesthesia error are so serious, it is critical that anesthesiologists, nurse-anesthetists (CRNAs), and hospital administrators use proper care at all times. If a mistake is made and the victim or their family can prove negligence, they could potentially pursue a medical malpractice claim.
How The Champion Firm Can Help After an Anesthesia Error
The Champion Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.