Anesthesia errors are a serious concern for anyone undergoing a surgical procedure. Mistakes can lead to serious medical conditions and even death, with roughly 300 people dying from anesthesia errors every year. As with other types of medical errors, when an anesthesia error results from a failure to meet the appropriate standard of care, the victim may be entitled to compensation for medical malpractice.
Common Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia errors are common with both general anesthetics (which render a patient unconscious) and local anesthetics (which numb a specific part of the body). Some of the most common types of errors include:
- Overdose (administering too much of an anesthetic)
- Underdose (administering too little of an anesthetic)
- Delayed administration (administering an anesthetic too late into the procedure)
- Administering the incorrect anesthetic
- Administering an anesthetic to which the patient is allergic
- Administering an anesthetic that has adverse interactions with the patient’s medications
- Failing to provide the patient with sufficient oxygen while under anesthesia
- Failing to provide proper instructions to the patient prior to undergoing anesthesia (such as restrictions on eating or drinking)
When an anesthesiologist, nurse, or other medical professional administers too little anesthesia, the result can be a condition known as, “anesthesia awareness.” During anesthesia awareness, the patient remains conscious and may experience feeling during his or her procedure.
When anesthetics are administered along with muscle relaxers or other drugs that cause temporary paralysis (which is a common practice for certain procedures), this can render the patient unable to communicate that they need more anesthetic. It perhaps goes without saying that this can be an inordinately traumatic experience and one that can have lasting effects on the patient’s mental health.
Other Effects of Anesthesia Errors
Aside from anesthesia awareness due to underdose, anesthesia errors can leave patients suffering from a wide variety of serious, life-changing, and sometimes fatal medical conditions. The consequences of an anesthesia error may include:
- Abnormal pulse
- Birth defects
- Blood pressure problems
- Brain damage
- Heart problems
- Malignant hyperthermia
- Nerve damage
- Organ damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Transmission of hepatitis C or other viruses
- Vision impairments
While all patients face risks from anesthesia errors, elderly patients, women who are pregnant, patients taking prescription medications, and patients in certain other populations may be at an increased risk for suffering serious complications. In any case, if you or a loved one has experienced anesthesia awareness or an adverse reaction to anesthesia, you may have a claim for medical malpractice that entitles you to significant financial compensation.