Most surgeries ranging from complex to minor usually require some level of anesthesia — usually to make a patient immobile or unconscious, so they are not aware of the procedure and do not feel pain.
Different Types of Anesthesia?
Different types of anesthesia may be used depending on the procedure being performed including:
Local anesthesia: Local anesthesia usually involves injecting a medication into the tissue to numb a specific area of the body. For example, local anesthesia may be used to have stitches placed.
Regional anesthesia: Regional anesthesia is used to block pain sensations from a specific area of the body. It’s different from local anesthesia in that it blocks a cluster of nerves, so it prevents pain in a broader area. An epidural used to prevent pain during labor is an example of regional anesthesia.
Conscious sedation: A conscious sedation involves administering medication that relaxes the patient and makes them less aware of a procedure without being fully unconscious. For example, a conscious sedation is often used for a patient who is having a shoulder reduction to fix a dislocation.
General anesthesia: During general anesthesia, the patient is unconscious and does not sense or feel the procedure being performed. General anesthesia may involve administration of different drugs, which also immobilize the patient. Patients given general anesthesia are usually intubated for airway protection. General anesthesia carries a higher risk of complications than other types of anesthesia.
Preventable Anesthesia Errors Are Usually Devastating for the Patient
Unfortunately, complications can occur with anesthesia. Occasionally, a patient will be allergic to an anesthetic and have a bad reaction. But if carefully monitored, allergic reactions can often be treated and the situation corrected.
In other cases, an error is made when administering the anesthesia or while the patient is under sedation. The most common preventable anesthesia errors involved in anesthesia include:
Giving too much anesthesia (anesthetic overdose): One of the most serious mistakes is giving too much anesthesia. The amount of anesthesia administered varies based on factors, such as the procedure being performed and the patient’s size. If too much is given, complications can include problems waking up, cardiac arrest and brain damage.
Administering too little anesthesia: The opposite can also happen, and too little anesthesia can be given. One potential complication of too little medication is anesthesia awareness. Anesthesia awareness involves the patient waking up during surgery and possibly feeling pain. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, some people who experience anesthesia awareness may develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Failure to monitor the patient properly while under anesthesia: Anesthesia can affect heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. It is critical that patients are monitored properly while under anesthesia and as they come out of sedation. Without proper monitoring, life threatening complications and reactions can be missed.
Improper insertion of the endotracheal tube with general anesthesia: Patients going under general anesthesia usually require intubation, which involves inserting a breathing tube into the airway. If the tube is inserted incorrectly, it can lead to complications including decreased oxygen to the brain, laryngeal injury and pneumothorax.
Common Reasons for Anesthesia Mistakes
Anesthesia mistakes can occur for a variety of reasons including professional negligence (aka medical malpractice). For example, improper training can lead to mistakes.
All anesthesiologists and other doctors and medical staff involved in administering anesthesia or monitoring patients who are under anesthesia must be properly trained to recognize and avoide common anesthesia errors.
Having a lack of qualified personnel present can also lead to errors. For example, during a conscious sedation, personnel should be present to provide airway monitoring and management.
Mistakes can also occur due to failure to review a patient’s medical history. Certain conditions may be present that would increase a person’s chances of having an adverse reaction to sedation. Lack of attention to detail, such as the patient’s weight, may also lead to miscalculation of medication and mistakes.
Consequences of Anesthesia Mistakes
Anesthesia mistakes and negligence can cause anything from minor injuries and discomfort to permanent damage. For example, trauma to the teeth can occur during intubation for general anesthesia. But potentially life changing injuries can also occur because of anesthesia mistakes. Serious consequences of anesthesia mistakes include:
- Brain damage
- Cardiac arrest
Preventable mistakes due to anesthesia can have lifetime effects leading to disability, lost wages and emotional issues. The cost of additional treatment required after an anesthesia mistake can also be staggering. If you or a loved one have suffered harm due to an anesthesia mistake, we may be able to assist you. Please call our anesthesia error attorneys at 312-527-4500 for a free consultation.