Anesthesia Malpractice: Common Errors

Anesthesiologist administering anesthesia to a patient

Many of us have had to undergo anesthesia at some time or another as a result of a medical procedure. Anesthesia may be a scary experience for some, but it is relatively safe. It is also quite common, with 40 million anesthesia procedures conducted in the United States every year.

Even though anesthesia is a common procedure, it is not without its risks. A documentation error or incorrect dose can lead to serious health effects. Some patients develop permanent nerve damage. Others go into a coma and even die.

Types of Anesthesia

There are three types of anesthesia:

  • Local: This type of anesthesia blocks nerves in a small area of the body. It is used for minor surgeries and is typically done via injection. This can be painful, but the anesthesia takes effect quickly. The patient is not put in a deep sleep.
  • Regional: Regional anesthesia numbs a larger portion of the body than local anesthesia. Spinals and epidurals are common forms of regional anesthesia.
  • General: General anesthesia numbs the body from head to toe. The patient has no memory of the procedure. It is given through an IV or breathing mask. The anesthesiologist reverses the procedure when the medical procedure is complete. This is the riskiest form of anesthesia.

Common Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia is generally safe, but there is still a chance for error. Some common errors include the following:

  • Medication dosing errors. These are the most common errors. Most are caused by inadequate experience, but lack of familiarity with the device and equipment, carelessness, and inattention are also factors.
  • Administration of residual anesthetics. When the devices are flushed, there is a risk of anesthesia building up in the patient’s veins. This risk is higher for children.
  • Ineffective pain management. Once the surgery is complete, hospitals tend to have a hard time managing pain. Poor timing can cause serious side effects, which is why some hospitals use regional anesthesia to control or reduce pain.
  • Documentation errors. When the documentation is unclear or contains errors, patients could receive the wrong dose of medication. Processes should be followed to prevent this.
  • IV flow rate issues. When IV flow rates are not accurately set, this can result in the patient getting too much or too little anesthesia. Too little anesthesia means the patient does not experience pain relief, while too much can cause headaches and breathing problems. Kinks in the IV can cause these issues, as can carelessness.

Work with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice can happen in a variety of situations. While anesthesia is done so frequently and is generally safe, errors can happen. An error can result in serious medical conditions and even death.

If a loved one suffered from nerve damage, coma or even death from an anesthesia error, it is important that you seek legal help. Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Peters Berger Koshel & Goldberg, P.C. They can develop a strong case against the anesthesiologist, hospital and other responsible parties. Call our office at (800) 836-7801 to schedule your free consultation.


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