Articles Posted in Anesthesia Injuries

meye-i-1196519-1279x932-300x219A case involving five eye surgery patients in Massachusetts, who suffered serious injuries and lost their vision, is being blamed on anesthesiologist errors.

An investigation into the injuries that occurred on a single day in May 2014 suggests that the anesthesiologist may have injured the eyeballs of the patients while administering anesthesia using a needle. The injuries were serious enough for all five patients to lose vision in the eye. The patients had been admitted to the center for cataract surgery.

According to the investigation, the anesthesiologist had been sent to the hospital in place of the regular anesthesiologist by a broker who was often used by the center. Lawsuits have been filed, and are seeking damages for medical malpractice.

anesthesia-injury-pic-23-300x295Anesthesia injuries occur due to several factors, many of which are beyond the control of the patient. However, that does not mean that a patient should not take simple and basic steps to prevent injuries and errors. If you are scheduled to undergo surgery utilizing general anesthesia, there are steps you can take to ensure the anesthesia safer for you.

First, obey your doctor’s instructions. When you are administered general anesthesia, the digestive muscles that are responsible for preventing food and stomach acids from leaking into your lungs are relaxed. In a situation like this, regurgitation or vomiting is a real risk. There is also a very strong risk of choking or suffocation.  This is the reason why your surgeon will advise that you avoid drinking or eating food before being administered anesthesia. Typically, you must avoid food at least six hours before your surgery. You may be allowed to drink water; however, it is necessary to clear this also with your doctor.  

You may be required to continue taking your medications until a few hours before the surgery. Try to take your medication with very little water. Discuss any medication use before for the surgery with your doctor.

Going UnderBack in the 1940’s, approximately 69 out of every million who underwent a surgery under anesthesia, died as a result of anesthesia-related injuries. Over the next few decades however, those numbers were dramatically reduced, and going under anesthesia doesn’t automatically mean a much higher rate of death now.

However, despite great advances in anesthetic medicine, anesthesia is still not 100% safe. One of the responsibilities of your medical/surgical team, which includes your anesthesiologist, is to ensure that you’re not at a high risk for anesthesia injuries. They must account for those factors that put the patient at higher risk for complications related to the use of anethesia.

For instance, older patients are at a much higher risk of injury from anesthesia. In fact, the worldwide rate of anesthesia injuries has actually been inching upwards in recent years, and researchers point to the increasing numbers of older people going under the knife as one of the main factors contributing to this increase. As life expediencies increase, the numbers of older patients undergoing surgery has also increased. Older patients, who may have a history of cardiovascular problems including heart attacks, heart problems, or high blood pressure, have a much higher risk of anesthesia-related complications.

anesthesia bottle 2The frightening phenomenon of anesthesia awareness is a nightmarish one that is fortunately much more rare than you would think. In this phenomenon, a person under anesthesia is able to recall the events surrounding his surgery, while under sedation. Simply put, anesthesia awareness occurs when the medication that is given to the patient to sedate him before the surgery, fails to have the intended effect. In such cases, the patient is not completely sedated, and is actually aware of his surroundings.

In some very rare cases, the person directly feels pressure and pain. These are obviously some of the most severe cases of anesthesia awareness, and can lead to long-term anguish and trauma for the patient. In some of the most severe scenarios, the combination of medications that is given to the patient fail in varying degrees. For instance, medications that regulate sleep and pain control in the patient may fail, while paralytic drugs do not. This means that the patient may actually be awake throughout the surgery, and may even feel pain, but may be paralyzed and unable to explain or articulate this to the surgical team.

Anesthesia awareness is rare, but there are cases of less severe forms of anesthesia awareness that do occur. Medical estimates hold that approximately one patient in every 1,000 experiences some form of anesthesia awareness. In most cases, this is just a fleeting sense of awareness.

oxygen tanksSurgery can be scary.  There are risks related to the procedure itself but none more so than the use of anesthesia.  A patient may suffer anesthesia-related injuries when there are errors made in its administration but many errors occur even after the patient is under anesthesia.

Some of the more common types of anesthesia errors include the administration of the wrong type of anesthesia.  Worse yet is when a patient receives too the wrong dose or too much anesthesia or suffers from anesthesia awareness, when the patient is not adequately sedated.

Failure to identify possible complications or other drug interactions can also occur.  Usually this is a result of a failure to accurately and fully evaluate the medical history of patient.

There also instances when medical personnel fail to adequately monitor the patient during the surgery which can lead to oxygen deprivation.

The effects of anesthesia errors are quite serious and in the worst case, fatal.  The effects can range from dizziness and confusion, blurry vision, seizures, cardiac problems, coma, or even death.  However, the results of an anesthesia error may be not be only physical in nature.  Many times the results of anesthesia errors are psychological. People who have suffered through anesthesia awareness typically go on to suffer from psychotic problems like anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.

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