ANESTHESIA

QUICK FACTS

  • The most frequently reported anesthesia-related injuries were:
    • Death (18.3 %).
    • Nerve damage (13.5 %).
    • Organ damage (12.7 %).
    • Cardiopulmonary arrest (10.7 %).
  • A Columbia University study found that there were 2,211 anesthesia-related deaths in the U.S. over a seven-year period, according to the National Institutes of Health.

ANESTHESIA

Overview

The use of Ether to render a patient unconscious for surgery was first administered in the United States in 1846.  Over the next 170 plus years, many advances have been made in the field of Anesthesia.  New medications and technology have evolved to make anesthesia safer, more comfortable to the patient and more predictable.

Each year, approximately 40 million anesthetics are administered to patients in the United States.  Anesthesia, which ranges from the local numbing of the portion of the body where the surgery is to be performed to rendering a patient completely asleep, is an essential part of any surgical procedure.

Anesthesia is administered by medical professionals that include Anesthesiologists (medical doctors) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) in hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgery centers and physician (and dental) offices.

While modern medicine has made anesthesia generally safe, it is not without significant risk. There are certain anesthesia-related injuries and deaths which are unavoidable.  However, many other anesthesia injuries and deaths are completely preventable and directly due to negligence by the anesthesia personnel caring for the patient.

Types Of Anesthesia

The primary types of anesthesia described below are intended to minimize patient pain during a surgical procedure and, in certain circumstances, eliminate patient memory of a surgical procedure.

Anesthesia Personnel’s Role

The role of the anesthesiologist and the other anesthesia personnel begins well in advance of surgery and continues after its completion. The safe administration of anesthesia requires:

  • Identifying specific patient risk for the particular anesthesia to be used.
  • Making certain that the patient is properly positioned to reduce the risk of nerve injuries from pressure.
  • Repositioning the patient during lengthy operations.
  • Administering the proper anesthetic medications at proper dosages to maintain the patient pain-free and comfortable.
  • Monitoring the patient’s vital signs to make certain they are within safe and normal ranges throughout the surgery.
  • Monitoring the patient’s urine output and blood loss.

The safe administration of anesthesia requires proper communication and teamwork between the anesthesiologist, CRNA, OR nursing personnel and the surgeon.

The anesthesia personnel’s responsibility to the patient continues after the surgery has been concluded.  Once the surgery is concluded, the patient is typically transferred to the Recovery Room or the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). While in the Recovery Room or the PACU, the anesthesia personnel is responsible for:

  • Managing the patient’s emergence from anesthesia.
  • Continuously evaluating the patient’s vital signs and oxygen level.
  • Making certain that the patient’s post-operative pain level is manageable.
  • Evaluating the patient for an intraoperative injury.
  • Determining that the patient has regained consciousness and is stable for discharge.

Common Types Of Anesthesia Malpractice

There is no question that anesthesia, while generally safe and predictable, nonetheless can be extremely dangerous. While injuries from anesthesia mistakes can have devastating consequences, they are a challenge to prove. If you or a loved one has sustained injury (or even worse) from a suspected anesthesia mistake, call us. We have the knowledge and the experience to determine whether you or a loved one’s injury was due to a preventable anesthesia mistake.

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