In this series we show you the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to your health and the many ways you can prevent common medical errors.
Why should you take charge?
Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the United States. The American Association for Justice estimates that 440,000 errors resulting in death occur each year. We’ve learned a thing or two after handling medical malpractice cases for more than 30 years. We’ve learned that while medicine is complex, errors often can be prevented in simple, common sense ways. When you take charge of your own medical information you can actually decrease the odds it will happen to you.
Advocacy Series Highlight: Anesthesia Errors
The term anesthesia refers to the administration of drugs that allow patients to be unconscious and/or numb during surgical and semi-invasive procedures. Anesthesia is an important part of the operative process, and it is utilized tens of millions of times each year in the U.S. There are multiple types of anesthesia, each serving a different purpose. For example, general anesthesia refers to administering IV drugs that will sedate the patient so he or she is completely unconscious; drugs are also given to paralyze the patient’s body to prevent movement during the surgery. Another type of anesthesia is local anesthesia, which occurs when drugs are injected into a specific area in the body to numb it. Local anesthesia is common in dental procedures to numb a patient’s tooth.
While anesthesia is commonly used, it is complex, important, and comes with risks of errors and complications. Studies have shown that anesthesia errors account for over 300 deaths annually, and many more permanently injured patients.
What is an anesthesia error?
Even a small mistake by an anesthesiologist can have devastating consequences. Mistakes like overdoses, improper intubation, and not monitoring the patient’s vital signs during the procedure can cause a number of serious problems. One of the most infamous is anesthesia awareness, which occurs when a patient regains consciousness during the procedure but is unable to speak or move. Anesthesia awareness, while rare, is incredibly traumatic, and can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and PTSD. A patient who suffered an anesthesia error may also experience:
- Hypoxic brain damage
- Embolism (blockage in blood vessel)
- Pain, headaches
What can you do to protect yourself from anesthesia errors?
Anesthesia errors can have severe, permanent effects, and it’s important to know the risks before you undergo any medical procedure. To protect yourself against possible complications, make sure you ask your provider relevant questions, including how long you need to fast and what medications you can take in the days leading up to the procedure. These things can play a role in how the anesthesia works in your body, as can drug allergies and preexisting cardiovascular problems. If you suffered complications from anesthesia during surgery, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to review your case. For a free claim evaluation with our team at Scartelli Olszewski, call or message us today.