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Anesthesia Errors

Chances are if you have to have surgery, you will be depending on the skills and expertise of the anesthesiologist. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who specializes in medications that help people stay unconscious during surgery. It is their responsibility to ensure that the patient stays in a deep enough level of sedation that they do not wake up during surgery. The anesthesiologist also monitors vital signs and helps sustain oxygen levels during surgery.

Not only do anesthesiologists work in the surgical suite, but they also help relieve the pain of pregnant women in labor. Women who have received epidurals or saddle blocks are often grateful to the anesthesiologist for the pain relief they receive that keeps them from experiencing the painful contractions of birth. An epidural is the most often used method of pain relief for women in labor. The doctor administers the numbing medication through a catheter placed strategically near the epidural area in the spine. Patients are able to receive a steady dose of medication during labor that helps them avoid pain entirely.

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists specialize in giving anesthesia to patients in the same way that anesthesiologists do. In order to qualify, a nurse must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing with postgraduate studies leading to a master’s degree in anesthesia studies. The nurse anesthetists provide anesthetic services as part of their nursing care. Anesthesiologists provide the same type of care, but it is considered medical care. Nurse anesthetists provide small hospitals in rural communities of vital service, because there are not enough anesthesiologists in practice to take care of the needs of every patient.

The professionals who provide anesthesia to patients provide a much-needed service. Most of the time, these procedures are completed with no complications or errors. But when there is a mistake, the costs to the patient can be high.

Common Anesthesia Errors

One of the most typical errors in this field is a wrong dosage or a wrong medication. This can be caused by a medication having the wrong label, or by someone mistakenly taking the wrong medicine off the shelf or administering the wrong dosage to a patient. These mistakes of using the wrong medication can be devastating, depending on the patient's physiology and the type of medication used. If the wrong dosage is used, that can also cause problems. With anesthesia, too much medication can be dangerous.

Sometimes medication is not given on the right schedule. If medication is given too late, it can lead to problems during surgery. Problems like this usually happen from leaks or other mechanical failures during surgery.

Most anesthesia errors happen in the surgical suite, or immediately afterwards. The operating room is a busy place. Sometimes, the specialist may have to step away for a moment, leaving the patient unmonitored.

What a person is getting ready to have surgery, the anesthesiologist or nurse will put them to sleep. They then have to insert a breathing tube, to ensure the patient has enough oxygen while unconscious. Sometimes, a person's trachea or airway can be damaged from the insertion of the tube. Normally, any injury caused from the insertion of a tube is only minor.

More rarely, alcohol or drug abuse by the specialist can cause problems for patients. If a person has a drug or alcohol abuse problem, they should not be going to work, especially if they work in a hospital. This holds true for anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists.

Lack of communication is one of the biggest causes of errors in any profession. If the patient is not given proper instructions about what they can eat before surgery or what they can do after surgery, that itself could lead to complications. If a person has food in their stomach, the food could be aspirated while they are unconscious and end up causing pneumonia.

Perhaps one of the scariest scenarios involving anesthesia is when a person receives too little medication. Imagine waking up when you are having surgery. This may sound far-fetched, but it does happen. Doctors give patients something that keeps them from moving all their in surgery. If they do not have enough medication to keep them unconscious, it is possible that they could wake yet not be able to move. Patients that have been through something like this may end up traumatized. These are the patient's that are likely to sue.

Any patient who feels that they have received lasting damage or trauma due to an error in the delivery of their anesthesia should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Even if they are not considering filing a lawsuit, they need to consult with a professional to ensure all their rights are preserved. In most states, there are statutes of limitations that limit the amount of time a person has two file a claim.