Current statistics indicate that 1 out of every 200,000 patients dies as a result of anesthesia complications. In April 2009 the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Anesthesiology, reported that 2,211 deaths related to anesthesia occurred in the United States between 1999 and 2005. Additionally, according to data from 2000, the National Healthcare Quality report has indicated that approximately 0.724 incidences of anesthesia complications per 1,000 surgical discharges occur in the United States.
A common concern among patients is that they will not be 100% unconscious and will “wake up” while undergoing a surgical procedure as a result of some error in the administration of anesthesia. Mayo clinic has reported that out of every 1,000 people who are under general anesthesia, approximately 1 or 2 wake up while in surgery. This can occur as a result of an anesthesiology specialist’s failure to use correct methods or devote the necessary attention to proper practices in administering anesthesia. In making such errors, hospital personnel may contribute to this partial awareness in patients during surgery.
Such “anesthesia awareness” usually means that the quantity of anesthesia administered does not keep a person unconscious. However, the quantity is enough to prevent that person from making noise or moving. Typically, patients experiencing “anesthesia awareness” also can hear what is going on around them. When experiencing “anesthesia awareness” a person may not feel pain, however, sometimes unbearable pain is suffered or experienced. Anesthesia & Analgesia published a study which found that 28 percent of patients who experience anesthesia awareness will feel the pain of surgery. Additionally, the data from the study indicated that one half of patients will hear conversations in the operating room. Furthermore, the study indicated that half will feel as if they are unable to breath. Some people have suffered serious psychological problems as a result of being put through such a traumatizing experience. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has indicated that 21,000 to 42,000 Americans experience anesthesia awareness each year.
Anesthesia errors, including failure to prevent anesthesia awareness, may occur for a number of reasons. Typically, however, such errors are due to professional negligence. Some of the most common anesthesia mistakes include dosage error, either because the anesthesia product is incorrectly labeled or because an anesthesiologist makes a mistake and gives a patient too much or too little anesthesia.
Issues with anesthesia may occur because of: delayed delivery of anesthesia because of leakage, IV error, or syringe issues; failure to intubate in order to help a patient breath safely; inadequate monitoring of patients; and errors in the recognition of complications. Anesthesia complications may also result from: leaving a patient unattended; turning off the alarm which monitors the level of oxygen in a patient’s blood and alerts medical professionals as to potential concerns; negligent administration of oxygen during surgery; a medical provider’s usage of drugs or alcohol; errors in communication between medical professionals and between medical providers and patients; defective equipment; and prolonging sedation for a dangerous amount of time.
A number of serious complications can arise from the improper administration of anesthesia. These complications may result from toxic effects and include: abnormal breathing, abnormal heartbeat, abnormal blood pressure, nerve damage, heart or lung problems, stroke, and heart attack. Anesthesia complications can even cause brain damage, long-term coma, or death.
Improper anesthesia administration is a serious problem and your concerns as a patient must be addressed. Large hospitals and hospital personnel should not be able to make critical mistakes without being held responsible. It is extremely important that those professionals administering anesthesia to patients, as well as those professionals monitoring patients during surgical procedures, are well qualified.
If you or a loved one has suffered a complication with anesthesia please contact the law offices of d’Oliveira & Associates at 1-800-992-6878 or fill out a contact form for a free legal consultation.