A unique level of attentiveness and accuracy is required when performing any medical procedure. This expected level of care is even more important when anesthesia is involved, due to the sensitive nature of the drugs used and the way they are administered.
Anesthesia is utilized for all types of medical procedures due to the high number of operations requiring patients to be unconscious or unable to feel pain. Of the nearly 500,000 anesthesia-eligible procedures performed nationwide from 2010 to 2015, 80 percent involved anesthesia services.
The Purpose of Anesthesia
Anesthesia is used in order to eliminate any sensation and pain during a medical procedure, whether it be a root canal or a hip replacement surgery. When administering anesthesia, there are a variety of ways in which it can be given, and is typically done by either an anesthesiologist or other healthcare professional.
Types of Anesthesia
The type of anesthesia used is contingent on the procedure that the patient is undergoing, as well as their past and current medical condition. The three types of anesthetics that can be used are local, regional, and general anesthesia, all of which vary in strength.
Local anesthesia is typically given for minor operations to temporarily prevent the patient from feeling pain in a small, but specific, area of their body. It is often administered via injections into the particular body part that needs to be numbed, and the patient remains conscious throughout the procedure.
Regional anesthesia impacts a larger portion of the body and is used in larger doses. Also called a nerve block, regional anesthesia is injected into the spine or the surrounding nerves to block senses to a large region of the body. The two main forms of this are spinal anesthetic and epidural anesthetic.
General anesthesia is the strongest form and is used to induce unconsciousness and numb all feelings throughout the patient’s body. The medicine can be administered through a breathing mask that is kept on for the entirety of the operation or through an intravenous (IV) line. When given through a mask, a breathing tube is often inserted in the patient’s windpipe to maintain proper breathing during the operation.
Injuries from Anesthesia Services
Yet with the use of anesthesia comes a myriad of inherent risks, which can occur prior to the procedure or during the procedure itself. “When administering anesthesia, there are typically a series of tests and measures that must be completed prior to the procedure as well as continuous monitoring of the patient throughout,” says Attorney John Fisher. “If these initial steps and care are not properly observed, it may result in a medical malpractice injury.”
Improper Administration and Lack of Monitoring
Prior to administering anesthesia, the anesthesiologist or other healthcare professional is expected to examine the patient’s medical history and current health status to ensure proper treatment and to determine if complications can occur. If this is not done, it might lead to the patient experiencing an allergic reaction to the drugs. The provider is also expected to continuously monitor the patient and their vital signs throughout the entirety of the procedure. If the provider fails to do this, the patient may experience complications caused by their irregular vitals.
Furthermore, the provider must act with extreme care when administering the anesthetics. When anesthetics are administered negligently, such as improper intubation, the patient can experience larynx damage, tooth damage, as well as additional injuries.
Incorrect Dosage of Anesthetics
Under their duty of care, healthcare providers are expected to administer the correct amount of anesthesia. The specific amount typically varies by patient, but when the wrong amount of anesthesia is used there can be severe adverse effects. Too much anesthesia can lead to an overdose and result in a lack of oxygen. This, in turn, can produce a multitude of adverse effects.
Too little anesthesia might mean that the patient experiences what is known as “anesthesia awareness.” This occurs when the patient becomes conscious during the surgery. They may be able to feel pain but are unable to communicate it to the doctors.
Were You a Victim of Anesthesia Errors?
Other injuries that someone can suffer due to errors in administering or monitoring the anesthetics given include:
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
All healthcare providers are expected to treat each patient with a duty of care, yet if the provider fails to do so, their negligence can result in injuries to the patient. If you experienced any of these issues due to errors with your anesthesia, you may have been a victim of medical malpractice and could have a claim for damages.