Anesthesia is given to patients in various types of medical care situations (including dental care) in order to help them remain as calm, comfortable, and as safe as possible. Administering anesthesia places the individual into a state of either semi-consciousness or total unconsciousness. It allows medical professionals to perform procedures that would otherwise bring significant discomfort and pain to the patient.
The job description of an anesthesiologist is critical during surgical procedures. This is the individual who is supposed to have the proper training to administer the drugs as required, closely monitor and regulate the patient’s vital signs and functions, and also provide the patient with oxygen, among other duties.
Sadly, patients far too often suffer the consequences of anesthesia errors. Sometimes these errors occur during a surgical operation/procedure and are corrected quickly enough to prevent negative consequences to the patient. However, other times debilitating and even disastrous results occur due to the error.
Many times the patient and his or her family will not have much, if any information about the attending anesthesiologist until the surgery or treatment is completed. Many times, patients do not choose the person who is responsible for providing critical care and treatment to keep them alive during a medical procedure. Often, we just trust these medical professionals to have the knowledge and experience necessary to do their jobs properly.
Several of the most common anesthesia mistakes listed below can result in serious or even fatal injuries:
- Failure to monitor. The anesthesiologist has the responsibility to monitor and regulate the patient’s oxygen and heart rate and level of consciousness, in addition to other responsibilities. Any failure on the part of the anesthesiologist to carry out these tasks properly can put the patient at risk for serious brain injury or death.
- Failure to intubate or injuries resulting from intubation. In order to help patients breathe during surgery, the anesthesiologist will perform intubation to maintain a proper airway. However, failure to keep the airway open through this process can cause the patient serious injury, including cardiovascular failure, brain damage, neurological problems, and trauma to the teeth, tongue, lips, larynx, and trachea.
- Dosage errors. It is the job of the anesthesiologist to administer just the right amount of anesthesia to the patient – not too little and not too much. An overdose of anesthesia can extend the patient’s period of sedation which could also lead to brain damage and coma. An insufficient dosage can leave the patient suffering and even in agony as he or she begins to wake up from the procedure.
- “Anesthesia awareness”. Anesthesia awareness occurs when insufficient anesthesia has been administered to the patient and the patient becomes conscious again during the surgery or other procedure. At the same time, however, due to receiving this paralytic drug, the patient is unable to communicate the fact that he or she is awake and able to feel pain, sometimes excruciating pain as the surgery continues. Each year in the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 20,000 to 40,000 cases of anesthesia awareness
- Communication errors. The anesthesiologist is responsible for keeping the attending surgeon(s) and others assisting with the surgery aware of the patient’s vital signs and other conditions. Failure to provide this information accurately and in a timely manner can cause the patient serious health complications, including potential heart failure.
Negligence and anesthesia errors
Anesthesia mistakes are preventable mistakes. Sadly, they occur too often as a result of carelessness and negligence on the part of anesthesiologists. When injury of any kind is the result, including serious injury such as brain damage, the victim certainly has a strong basis for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.