Approximately 40 million patients are given an anesthetic drug per year in the United States. While anesthetics are most well-known for being used as a sedative during surgery, there are a few other reasons an anesthetic drug may be administered.
Types of Anesthesia
General anesthesia, as mentioned above, is used to make a patient unconscious during a medical procedure.
- Local anesthesia is injected to numb a specific area of the body that needs to be operated on, such as a tooth. Doctors may also use local anesthesia during certain diagnostic tests.
- Regional anesthesia numbs larger areas of the body, such as an entire limb. Regional anesthesia may used for minor surgeries, during childbirth, or during gynecological procedures.
- Spinal and epidural anesthesia drugs, a type of regional anesthesia, are injected near the spinal cord to block pain from the lower half of the body.
- Dissociative anesthesia, or conscious sedation medications, are sometimes given in tandem with local anesthesia to help the patient relax during a procedure.
Common Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia is given in a variety of medical settings, such as hospitals, ambulances, surgical centers, birthing centers, or a dentist’s office. Therefore, a variety of patients are at risk for anesthesia errors or complications. While it is unknown exactly how many patients suffer from an anesthesia error each year, research has shown that the most common mistakes in administering anesthetic drugs are:
- Improper technique that causes any undue harm during a procedure
- Dosage errors, where either too little or too much of the anesthetic is given
- Improper intubation, meaning that the patient does not receive enough oxygen while they are sedated
- Inadequate patient monitoring, which may prevent the medical provider from noticing changes in blood oxygen levels or other vital signs
- Poor communication with a patient, where the medical provider fails to properly inform the patient about anesthesia procedures, how to prepare for the procedure, or to ask if the patient is allergic to any anesthetic drugs
- Delaying or failing to administer an anesthetic when it is required
- Using expired, unsanitary equipment, or equipment that does not meet medical standards
Consequences of Anesthesia Errors
If a medical provider is not careful when administering anesthetic drugs, the patient can experience a wide range of negative side effects.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Blurred vision, confusion, or dizziness
- Damage to the veins, arteries, or nerves
- Complications with blood pressure
- Cardiovascular collapse, strokes, or other heart function issues, which are especially common with general anesthesia
- Brain damage
- Nerve damage
- Birth defects
- Malignant hypothermia, which results in fever and/or muscle contractions
- Issues stemming from a limited supply of oxygen, such as asphyxia
- In extreme cases, coma or death
Some patients may also experience anesthesia awareness. This occurs when the medical provider does not administer enough of the anesthetic to render the patient completely numb or unconscious, but the dosage is high enough to make the patient unable to communicate. Therefore, the patient is aware of everything happening to them during their procedure. Anesthesia awareness has caused post-traumatic stress disorder in many patients.
How We Can Help
While you or a loved one is coping with illness or injury, the last thing you should be worrying about is the reliability and quality of care you are receiving. At The Brothers Law Firm, we understand the pain and frustration of receiving improper health care during this time of need. We have represented numerous clients who have suffered serious injury and even death as a result of anesthesia errors. If you or someone you love has been harmed by an anesthesia error from improper dosages, complications during a procedure due to improper intubation, not being properly monitored during or after your procedure, being given an anesthetic that caused an allergic reaction, a medical provider delaying or failing to administer an anesthetic, or suffered undue harm from anesthetics for any other reason, contact us today. We can help you understand your legal rights and determine the best options to ensure you and your family get the help you need. To get started, fill out our online form to request a free consultation or call us at (281) 491-3635.