What are the consequences of an anesthesia error?

Going in for surgery is almost always an intimidating event. Some physicians will even prescribe anti-anxiety medication for patients who have excess worry regarding what can go wrong. While most surgeries proceed without many problems, surgery carries inherent risk, as does the anesthesia which accompanies the procedure. Some Houston-area patients may be wondering, what are the risks of an anesthesia error before or during surgery?

Many patients' fears revolve around general anesthesia. This type of anesthesia puts a patient completely to sleep so that no pain is felt during surgery. In rare cases, however - up to two out of every 1,000 patients - a person may temporarily awake while under general anesthesia. However, in most cases they still do not feel any pain. In extremely rare cases, a patient may feel severe pain despite being under general anesthesia and may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their terrifying ordeal.

Other potential consequences of anesthesia complications include heart attack, infection in the lungs or stroke. In addition, some patients may suffer damage to their teeth, tongue or vocal cords. In order to help prevent these and other complications, patients must be carefully monitored while under general anesthesia. A failure to properly watch breathing, pulse and blood pressure can be highly threatening to a patient's wellbeing and can be negligent on the part of a nurse or doctor.

Risk factors for anesthesia errors include surgery being done on an emergency basis, a patient's medication use, Cesarean section surgeries, existing lung or heart problems in a patient and a patient's use of alcohol. Additional risk factors are improper monitoring of a patient during the process or improper amounts of anesthesia administered to the patient.

A medical mistake involving general anesthesia can, unfortunately, culminate in serious injury or the loss of a loved one. Patients who experience complications from surgery, or families who have lost a member to surgery error, may have a malpractice claim.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "General anesthesia," accessed Jan. 10, 2015

Categories: Wrongful Death