Anesthesia is used to induce a state of unconsciousness, eliminate pain, and ensure patient safety during surgery or other invasive procedures. However, errors can occur during the administration or management of anesthesia, resulting in horrible consequences.
The following is a look at some of the most common anesthesia errors. If you’ve suffered harm due to an anesthesia error or any other form of medical malpractice, contact Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh. You can use our online form or call (561) 295-5825 for a free case review.
Dosage errors during anesthesia administration can have serious consequences for patients. These errors can occur due to various factors, including miscalculations, miscommunication, inadequate monitoring, or negligence by the healthcare provider. Here is a more in-depth look at dosage errors and their implications:
For example, administering too much anesthesia can lead to various complications, including respiratory depression, cardiovascular instability, or overdose. Excessive anesthesia can suppress the patient’s respiratory drive, resulting in inadequate oxygenation and ventilation. This can lead to respiratory distress, decreased oxygen levels in the blood (hypoxemia), and potentially respiratory arrest if not promptly recognized and managed.
Failing to Monitor Vital Signs
Vital signs provide valuable information about the patient’s physiological status and help healthcare providers detect and respond to any changes or complications that may arise during anesthesia. The potential consequences of failing to monitor them properly can be devastating.
For instance, monitoring oxygen saturation and carbon dioxide levels provides information about the patient’s oxygenation and ventilation status. Failure to monitor these parameters can result in undetected hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood) or hypoventilation, which can lead to tissue damage, organ dysfunction, or even respiratory arrest.
Keeping Patients Under for Too Long
Keeping patients under anesthesia for an extended period can increase the risk of complications and harm their health. While the duration of anesthesia is carefully planned based on the type of procedure and individual patient factors, excessive anesthesia time can lead to various adverse outcomes. The potential consequences include:
- Respiratory complications: Prolonged anesthesia can affect the respiratory system, leading to atelectasis (collapsed lung tissue), pneumonia, or respiratory tract infections. Reduced respiratory effort, inadequate ventilation, or suppression of the protective reflexes can contribute to these respiratory complications.
- Hypoxia and hypoxemia: Extended periods of anesthesia can lead to hypoxia, which is a reduced oxygen supply to tissues, and hypoxemia, which is a low level of oxygen in the blood. These conditions can occur due to impaired lung oxygen exchange, decreased respiratory effort, or inadequate oxygen delivery to tissues. Prolonged hypoxia and hypoxemia can result in tissue damage, organ dysfunction, or even organ failure.
Wrong Type of Anesthesia Used
Anesthesia can be categorized into general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, sedation, and local anesthesia, each serving different purposes.
The anesthesiologist selects the type of anesthesia based on various factors, including the patient’s medical history, the nature of the surgical procedure, and individual patient preferences. Using the incorrect type of anesthesia can lead to several adverse effects, including the following:
- Inadequate pain control: Different surgical procedures require specific types of anesthesia to ensure optimal pain control. If the wrong type of anesthesia is chosen, it may result in inadequate pain management during the procedure. This mistake can cause distress and discomfort for the patient, potentially leading to complications. These include delayed recovery and the need for additional pain management interventions.
- Inadequate sedation or consciousness: If an anesthesiologist administers the wrong type of anesthesia, there’s a risk of inadequate sedation or consciousness control. For instance, if regional or local anesthesia is mistakenly used when general anesthesia is necessary, the patient may remain partially awake or experience pain during the procedure.
Complications from Anesthesia Errors
Complications that can arise from anesthesia errors include:
Brain injury resulting from anesthesia errors is a rare but potentially severe complication. While anesthesia is generally considered safe, administration, monitoring, or management errors can adversely affect the brain. Anesthesia-related brain injuries can result in the following complications:
- Anoxic Brain Injury: Anoxic brain injury occurs when there is inadequate oxygenation or ventilation during anesthesia. Anoxic brain injury can lead to cognitive impairments, memory deficits, motor dysfunction, and even coma in severe cases.
- Hypoxic Brain Injury: Hypoxic brain injury is similar to anoxic brain injury but involves a partial reduction in oxygen supply to the brain. It can result in neurological deficits, including impaired cognition, movement disorders, and behavioral changes.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can occur due to surgical anesthetic errors. Anesthesia-related hypertension can have various causes and lead to complications if not promptly recognized and managed.
For example, anesthesia medications can affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure regulation. Inadequate pain control during surgery can trigger a physiological stress response, also leading to hypertension.
Anesthesia errors can cause blood clots to form in the blood vessels and travel to the brain, leading to blockage of cerebral arteries and a permanently debilitating stroke. Mistakes can result in hemorrhagic stroke as well due to bleeding into the brain or surrounding areas.
Anesthesia-related factors that can contribute to hemorrhagic stroke include uncontrolled hypertension, impaired coagulation due to medications or underlying conditions, or ruptured blood vessels due to surgical trauma.
Anesthesia awareness refers to a rare but distressing condition where the patient is partially or fully conscious during surgery but unable to move or communicate. It can cause significant psychological trauma and may lead to the development of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In severe cases, anesthesia errors can result in the death of a patient. Factors such as medication errors, inadequate monitoring, or delays in recognizing and managing complications can contribute to fatal outcomes.
How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit After an Anesthesia Error Causes Injury or Death
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to an anesthesia error, you may consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit to seek compensation for damages. A Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh attorney will have the skill and experience needed to help maximize that compensation.
We’ll gather relevant evidence to support your claims, such as medical records, anesthesia records, and other documentation demonstrating negligence or malpractice. Your KMW attorney will consult with medical experts, such as anesthesiologists or other relevant specialists, who can review the facts of your case and provide opinions on whether the anesthesia error constituted negligence or fell below the standard of care.