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Anesthesia Errors and Their Consequences

Having a procedure done that requires a local anesthetic can be intimidating, even for people who have been through it before. Anesthesia is given to patients to prevent them from feeling pain, and in certain situations, anesthetics are administered to make a patient enter an unconscious state because the procedure is highly invasive. These drugs are administered by licensed professionals called anesthesiologists who go through years of schooling to understand the correct amount and types of drugs to use for which patients. However, anesthesiologists can also make mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes can cause long term side effects.

Types of Anesthesia

Generally speaking, anesthesia is split into the following four classes:

  • Local: Local anesthesia treats a small area of the body and is most frequently used in dental procedures or skin biopsies.
  • Regional: Regional anesthesia treats a larger section of the body and is used in procedures you can still be conscious for. For example, epidurals given during labor or arm blocks given for hand surgeries are regional anesthetics.
  • General: General anesthesia is used to make the patient unconscious and unable to experience pain or other physical sensations. This is used for invasive surgeries.
  • Sedation: Sedation puts the patient to sleep, but more naturally than general anesthesia, so they can be woken easily. This is used for procedures that are uncomfortable but not invasive, like colonoscopies.

The potential consequences of an error in administration can be severe, but it depends on which type of anesthesia you have received. Issues with the administration of general anesthesia can end up with much more devastating issues than issues with sedation, for example.

Types of Anesthesia Mistakes

An error in the use of anesthetics by an anesthesiologist does not always mean an error in the administration of the medication. Although these tend to be the mistakes with the worst consequences, there are many things an administrator of anesthetics can get wrong.

Anesthesia Errors Before Procedures

Anesthesiologists must complete specific tasks before the patient enters the procedure, and if they fail to do so, issues can arise. Some examples of mistakes that can occur before the procedure takes place are:

  • Not educating the patient regarding the risks associated with anesthesia and the procedure they are going to have done
  • Not reviewing the patient’s medical history to make sure they don’t have any documented complications with anesthesia
  • Not giving the patient important pre-procedure instructions, such as letting them know if they need to fast before the procedure.

Anesthesia Errors During Procedures

Although a lot of the work of an anesthesiologist takes place before the procedure, they are essential in making sure that the patient receives the anesthesia well and that everything goes correctly during the procedure itself. During a procedure, mistakes made regarding the patient’s anesthesia can be particularly harmful and must be acted on quickly. Here are some examples of errors that can be made by an anesthesiologist during a procedure:

  • Giving the patient too much or too little of the anesthesia for the level of pain associated with the procedure
  • Giving the patient the wrong type of anesthesia for the procedure they’re having
  • Not paying attention to the patient’s vital signs
  • Use of faulty or defective equipment
  • Being intoxicated during the patient’s procedure
  • Not administrating the anesthesia on time (too early or too late)
  • Improper use of the anesthesia equipment (face masks, intubation tubes, etc.)
  • Not identifying complications that are occurring during the procedure

Anesthesia Errors After Procedures

While it might be common to think you’re safe after the procedure is done and the administration of anesthesia has been completed, there are still mistakes that can be made at this point in the process. Some anesthesia errors that can occur after the completion of a procedure include:

  • Failing to end the sedation of the patient on time
  • Abandoning an anesthetized patient
  • Not giving the patient instructions for aftercare

Unfortunately, anesthesia errors can happen at any point in the process, and the severity of the consequences of the mistake varies depending on when it happens.

Potential Consequences of Anesthesia Errors

Errors in the administration of anesthesia can have permanent physical and mental consequences for the patient involved and, in certain cases, can result in the death of the patient. Negligent behavior on the part of the anesthesiologist or failing to act quickly can cause many issues, such as:

  • Excessive pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Confusion or incoherence
  • Intubation-related injuries (bruising of the esophagus, etc.)
  • Critical allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Death
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage

Mistakes can happen even when the anesthetic is administered by the most talented anesthesiologists. In order for anesthesia errors to be tried as medical malpractice in a court of law, it must be proven that the anesthesiologist behaved in a negligent way or didn’t meet the standard of care, resulting in the patient’s injury. Patients under any form of anesthesia should be consistently monitored to make sure that complications are avoided or acted on quickly. Proof that your healthcare provider didn’t monitor you correctly while anesthetized could be the basis of a successful medical malpractice suit.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you have been or believe you have been the victim of an anesthesia error, you might be experiencing stress about whether you can receive justice for your specific situation as well as many other feelings that come along with trauma. This is reasonable and to be expected. If you are looking for more information about taking legal action for the error you endured, contact Rash Mueller today at (954) 914-7116 or via our contact page. Our accomplished and experienced team frequently handles medical malpractice cases.