Anesthesia is most commonly administered to patients undergoing surgery or some other painful medical procedure. Calculating the amount of general anesthesia to use is complicated. A mistake in dosage or in the type of anesthesia can cause permanent disability, loss of function, or even death.
Although Anesthesia errors are typically thought of as occurring in operating rooms, they can occur in a variety of settings and are not limited to anesthesiologists. Anesthesia errors occur in pre-operative and recovery rooms, during labor and delivery, during sedation for dental procedures, and during a wide variety of out-patient medical procedures in surgical clinics and doctors’ offices.
Who provides anesthesia care?
Anesthesia may be provided by a medical doctor with special training in anesthesia (an “anesthesiologist”), or by a specially-trained, advanced practice nurse (a “nurse anesthetist,” or “CRNA”). Sometimes medical residents in training will be involved in providing anesthesia care. In most cases, patients will not know exactly who will provide their anesthesia care until shortly before the procedure. During longer surgeries, responsibility for anesthesia is commonly handed off during meal breaks, or at the end of a shift.
People suffering from the consequences of anesthesia mistakes often require lifetime care and support. Many patients never fully recover. Most victims lose income as a result of missing work either temporarily, or in some extreme cases, they may never be able to return to their job at all.
Examples of Negligent Anesthesia care include:
- Failure to identify patients with pre-existing airway problems, including obstructive sleep apnea
- Mistakes in calculating and administering medication doses
- Errors in delivering spinal and epidural anesthesia
- Improper placement of breathing tubes and IV lines
- Missing critical changes in the patient’s condition, including blood oxygenation levels and blood pressure
- Improper positioning of the patient
- Discharging patients from the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) before they have recovered from the effects of anesthesia
- Delays in responding to critical problems during or after anesthesia care
Common injuries resulting from anesthesia errors include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Brain injury
- Allergic reactions
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