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Injuries Due to Anesthesia Errors

Anesthetics are strong medicines used prior to surgery or a dental procedure; its effect relaxes, paralyzes or renders a patient unconscious in order to numb away what may be excruciating pain. There are not plenty of records of anesthesiologists committing errors; however, when they do, such errors can result to devastating effects, which include joint injury, nerve damage, spinal cord injury, paralysis, ventilator dependence, airway trauma/damage, birth defect, brain injury, stroke and heart attack.

Prior to delivering the proper dosage of the appropriate drug to a surgical patient, it is important that an anesthesiologist knows a patient’s medical history (so as not to make the patient suffer from any possible adverse effect due to the drug). Once the patient is under anesthesia, he or she will have to be kept comfortable and safe at all times. Patient safety means making sure that the patient undergoing surgery has adequate oxygen levels and does not sustain any injuries (such as joint injuries, which are very common results of patient’s joints being hyperextended or hyperflexed, especially during long surgeries).

Anesthesia has two main categories: Local and General. Local anesthesia reduces or eliminates sensation only in a particular area of the body, while General anesthesia affects the whole body, usually inducing loss of consciousness and halting muscular reflexes. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, more than 40 million anesthetics are administered in the US every year, most of these being safe and without side-effects. There are times, though, when the following anesthesia errors are committed due to mistakes and malpractice;

  • Use of defective equipment, such as vital sign monitors;
  • Failure to thoroughly review patient’s medical history;
  • Failure to monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and other vital signs;
  • Failure to monitor a patient before and during anesthesia;
  • Incorrect placement of catheter;
  • Incorrect airway management and intubation during general anesthesia; and,
  • Administration of insufficient doses of anesthesia which affects more than 40,000 patients in the US every year. This error results to anesthesia awareness or awareness during surgery, a situation wherein a patient regains consciousness during a surgical procedure. Though already able to feel pain, the patient is incapable of crying out since he or she would still be paralyzed due to the effect of the drug that induces paralysis (which is different from the drug that causes sedation).

According to the website of Yvonne Fraser, anesthetics are extremely powerful drugs, thus, if administered improperly, can cause a patient to experience unnecessary pain, debilitating injury and even death. Proving negligence as the cause of anesthesia error, however, is not easy. It will require thorough investigation and the skill of interviewing those who were part of the surgical procedure to get from them the necessary information relevant to the case. It may then be wise to seek the assistance of an anesthesia errors lawyer if clues point to the possibility that such an error has been committed on your loved one.

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