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What You Should Know About Anesthesia Injuries

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert

Physician preparing anesthesia

Anesthesia is an important medical treatment for preventing patients from feeling pain during surgery, tissue sample removal, and dental procedures. Both anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) can provide anesthesia safely and expertly. According to the National Institutes of Health, although general anesthetics are typically very safe, they can pose risks for some patients, such as the elderly or people with chronic illnesses like diabetes.

What Are Anesthesia Injuries and Why Do They Occur?

Some of the more common injuries that occur during anesthesia include:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Awareness
  • Blindness
  • Death
  • Ocular injury
  • Oral trauma
  • Peripheral nerve injury
  • Sore throat

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), general anesthesia may have minor and temporary side effects like nausea, vomiting, chills, and confusion for a few days.  Nevertheless, the ASA further explains that rare and more serious risks include postoperative delirium or cognitive dysfunction, malignant hyperthermia, and breathing problems during and after surgery.

Unfortunately, many injuries sustained during anesthesia are due to human error. A 2019 study examining the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Foundation closed claims database revealed that 50.2% of the total anesthesia closed claims were preventable by actions of the involved CRNA.  The study found that there were three consistent themes associated with these claims:

  • Communication failures between CRNAs and other healthcare providers and between CRNAs and patients.
  • Errors in judgment that include: failure to recognize, diagnose and treat; inappropriate anesthesia care; inappropriate preparations and/or planning; cognitive biases; production pressure; lack of vigilance; normalization of deviance; and lack of situational awareness.
  • Failure to comply with standards.

What Factors Increase Risks Associated with Anesthesia?

The ASA has determined that the following conditions may increase risks associated with anesthesia:

  • Allergies to anesthesia
  • A history of adverse reasons to anesthesia
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney Problems
  • Lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Seizures or other neurological disorders
  • Smoking
  • Drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day

What Can You Do if You or Your Loved One Experience an Anesthesia Injury?

If you or a loved one have experienced an anesthesia injury, you should reach out to an attorney right away.  Contact the experienced attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC if you have questions about your legal rights following an anesthesia injury in Connecticut.  To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call or contact us online today.