Frischman & Rizza

How Common Are Anesthesia Mistakes?

Anesthesia malpractice can be incredibly dangerous for patients, as it is a medication used to control pain, alertness, and other sensations to ensure patient safety during a medical procedure. Unfortunately, anesthesia mistakes are more common than one would think.

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, a patient is harmed by anesthesia in one of every 200 to 300 cases.

Not only can anesthesia errors lead to serious complications such as injury or death, but they can also cause a patient to suffer from long-term physical and emotional side effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder. In some cases, anesthesia mistakes can also result in costly medical expenses and a lengthy recovery period.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with anesthesia and to be aware of the potential for anesthesia errors. medical malpractice claims epidural anesthesia

What Is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a drug that causes a person not to feel any pain.

Anesthesia is often used during surgery when a patient needs to be numb for the surgeon to operate. But in some cases, anesthesia has worn off mid-surgery, prompting the doctors to act fast in sedating the patient before resuming the procedure.

Anesthesia can also be given during certain procedures, like a colonoscopy (a process where a doctor looks inside someone’s colon with an endoscope).

That said, the side effects depend on how much of the drug was used and whether other drugs were administered along with it.

Common Types of Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia and involves putting a patient into a deep sleep. It is most commonly used for major surgical procedures, such as heart or brain surgery.

This drug works by taking over the nerve signals in the brain that control your senses and consciousness. Patients under general anesthesia cannot feel pain, move their muscles, or remember anything that happens after they go under the drugs.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia numbs a specific body area without putting you to sleep.

Local anesthetics are injected near the area meant for surgery so you won’t feel pain when the doctor cuts into your skin or tissue. Local anesthetics also block nerve impulses so that you can’t move in the area where they’re injected (such as in your mouth during dental work).

The amount of local anesthetic needed varies depending on the type of surgical procedure and how much tissue needs to be numbed (for example, it takes more local anesthetic to numb a large area than it does a small one).

In some cases, local anesthesia may be used with general anesthesia to numb specific areas on your body before surgical procedures, so you don’t feel pain during certain parts of your operation (for example: when stitching up a cut).

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia blocks signals from reaching your brain. It can be used for short surgeries on one part of your body, such as knee replacement surgery or mole removal.

How Are Patients Injured from Anesthesia Mistakes

Under or Over Sedation

Your patient may be under-sedated or over-sedated, which can lead to various problems.

Anesthesia Awareness

You may accidentally leave a foreign object in the body during surgery, resulting in severe pain and trauma for your patient. Or you might administer the wrong dosage of anesthesia, which can lead to brain damage or death.

Oxygen Deprivation

Oxygen deprivation results from administering too much of an anesthetic drug that depresses breathing rate and depth (hypoventilation). This complication is rare with modern anesthetics but can occur when someone has a preexisting lung condition like asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Heart Attacks

If someone’s heart rate drops too low due to hypoventilation caused by a medication overdose, this can cause cardiac arrest and, ultimately, death if not treated immediately.


Seizures are a common side effect associated with certain types of anesthesia. However, they are usually temporary unless an underlying pathology exists, such as epilepsy.

Causes of Anesthesia Errors

While anesthesia errors can be difficult to predict, there are several common causes that lead to mistakes. Some of these include:

Human Error

Most anesthesia errors happen due to human error. This includes medical professionals who fail to:

  • Follow protocols (for example, administering the wrong type of anesthesia).
  • Use inadequate monitoring techniques (such as failing to monitor the patient’s oxygen level).
  • Not being familiar with the patient’s medical history or current condition (for example, administering an overdose because they lacked knowledge about their allergies).

Inadequate Equipment and Supplies

Equipment such as ventilators, oxygen monitors, and blood pressure cuffs is essential for safe anesthesia care. If these items are unavailable or not in good working condition, an error will likely occur. This is particularly true in rural areas where resources may be limited.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Due to Anesthesia Errors?

If you or a loved one has been injured due to an anesthesia error, it’s important to know who is responsible for your injuries. The following parties could be held liable for your injuries:

  • Anesthesiologist(s)
  • Surgeon(s) and their staff
  • Hospital staff

Compensation Available Through a Medical Malpractice Claim for Injuries Caused by Anesthesia Errors

It’s important to remember that an anesthesia error isn’t always the result of a single negligent act. If a medical professional failed to monitor your condition during surgery and you suffered injuries as a result, they could be held liable for negligence.

Similarly, if your doctor administered the wrong type of anesthesia at your request—for example, if you asked for local anesthesia but were given general per se—this could also constitute malpractice on their part.

Contact Frischman & Rizza Law Firm for the Best Medical Malpractice Representation

If you believe a medical professional’s negligence caused your injury, contact the experienced Pittsburgh, PA, medical malpractice lawyers at Frischman & Rizza for help today.

Our goal is to help protect patients from harm and ensure that medical professionals are held accountable for their mistakes. In the event of a loss due to medical negligence, we work to help the victims and their families pursue justice and obtain the financial compensation they deserve.

Call us today at (412) 291-9377 to speak to one of our representatives.

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