Anesthesia is one of the fundamental medical developments that have made surgeries possible. Without anesthesia to dull the pain locally or regionally, or to put a patient unconscious when it is used generally, many serious and invasive surgeries would be impossible, and all of them would be traumatizing.
However, the power of anesthesia can also make it a potent and dangerous technique if it is not used properly. When healthcare professionals or anesthesiologists act negligently, it can even do far more harm than good during a surgical procedure, and can amount to medical malpractice.
Anesthesia Facts and Statistics
Anesthesia is not, technically, a drug: It is a medical technique that uses certain types of drugs to induce unconsciousness and amnesia, sedate patients, and to dull or relieve pain.
Administering anesthetics, however, can be complicated and requires the full attention of the anesthesiologist in charge. If a mistake is made, it can be deadly or carry long term or even permanent implications. While these mistakes are not made very often – worldwide, for every million people who get general anesthesia, approximately seven die – they still happen far more commonly than they should. The causes of those mistakes, though, are worrisome: A study by Columbia University found that 46.6% of anesthesia-related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2005 were due to an anesthetic overdose. Another 42.5% were caused by adverse effects of the anesthetic, many of which are predictable and entirely preventable. These numbers are in line with an earlier study, which had found that an estimated 82% of anesthesiology injuries were the result of human error.
How Anesthesia Errors Happen
The fact that anesthesiology is its own profession should give an indication of how difficult and nuanced it can be.
Anesthesiologists need to prepare their patients for sedation – particularly when it is going to be a general anesthesiology that will make the patient unconscious for a long period of time – and this requires extensive medical histories. Any mistakes in gather a patient's history could result in a harmful anesthesiology error, especially if it does not reveal important allergies or current medications that you are taking.
During the process, errors can happen, as well. An anesthesiologist can make a dosage mistake that causes severe damage or that allows the patient to wake up during the procedure or suffer anesthesia awareness. Anesthesiologists can also intubate incorrectly, preventing the drugs from taking their full effect. Finally, anesthesiologists also have to monitor their patients while they are under the spell of the drugs. If they do not monitor their patients, anesthesiologists could miss a warning sign that something is wrong.
Who is Responsible for Anesthesia Errors?
Nowadays, hospitals tend not to employ anesthesiologists. Instead, they hire them as independent contractors. This way, if the anesthesiologist makes a mistake and commits medical malpractice, the hospital might be able to avoid liability. This makes having a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney on your side throughout the process can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. Contact the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian online.