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Types of Anesthesia-Related Injuries

October 7, 2019 Pegalis Law Group

The development of anesthesia in the middle of the 19th century was a huge stride in the field of medicine, allowing doctors to perform surgery without causing pain to patients. Since those early days, many things have changed, and anesthesia has become much safer, due to advances in medications and technology. However, serious complications can still occur, which is why it’s so important for anesthesiologists to be well-trained and vigilant about safety. Since 1984, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has kept a database of anesthesia injuries, in an effort to improve patient safety. Claims have decreased in recent years, but there are still some common anesthesia-related injuries.

According to the CDC’s database, the most common types of anesthesia responsible for injuries in the 2000s included:

  • Surgical anesthesia
  • Chronic pain management
  • Acute pain management
  • Obstetrical anesthesia

The outcome most prevalent in anesthesia claims is death, followed by nerve injury. Two-thirds of  nerve injuries were temporary, while the remaining third were permanently disabling. The claims for monitored anesthesia care (MAC), anesthesia, acute, and chronic pain have seen a significant increase. Death was found to be more common with MAC techniques than with general or regional anesthesia. Experts theorize that MAC provides a false sense of security to providers, increasing the rate of negative outcomes. Then, too, more than two-thirds of surgical procedures in the United States are performed in surgical centers and medical offices, in which MAC is the preferred technique. The amount of regional anesthesia claims have actually declined in recent years, perhaps because of the introduction of ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia.

What puts patients at higher risk for anesthesia injuries? One factor is that the provider’s response to deteriorating vital signs may be delayed if alarms are ignored or turned off. Patient characteristics that result in a higher risk of injury include obesity and the presence of comorbidities like heart disease and diabetes, which nd to be considered when formulating a plan of care..

Taking all of these factors into account, it’s important for physicians and patients to take steps to reduce anesthesia-related injuries. Communication between doctor and patient is vital, and patients need to be clearly informed of the risks of anesthesia. Doctors should identify potential risk factors by taking a complete medical history and thoroughly assessing each patient through a physical evaluation. Responding to patient complaints quickly and being attentive during post-operative care is also important.

Anesthesia is safer than it used to be, but it still carries significant risks. If you are concerned about a misdiagnosis or possible medical error, contact the Pegalis Law Group, LLC. For 47 years, we have advocated for people of all ages to help our clients financially and make healthcare safer for everyone. You can reach us today by calling (516) 684-2900.

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