Anesthesia is used in a wide range of medical procedures to dull pain and
make it easier for patients to comfortably endure the process. Anesthesia
may render the patient unconscious, place them in a trance, or numb specific
areas of the body while the patient remains conscious and alert.
Since anesthesia strongly affects body functioning or even alters consciousness,
trained and experienced staff must administer it very carefully.
Here are eight of the most common anesthesia errors:
Too much anesthesia. When too much of one or more anesthesia drugs are administered, the patient
may suffer severe side effects or potentially fatal consequences.
“Anesthesia awareness,” which occurs when a patient receives too little of one or more anesthesia drugs.
Delayed delivery of anesthesia. Like other types of medical delays, a delay in anesthesia can cause severe
pain and other complications.
Giving the wrong anesthesia medication to a particular patient.
Giving anesthesia to a patient with allergies or medication complications. Certain anesthetics interact badly with some medications, and they should
not be given to patients taking those medications. Anesthesia medication
to which a patient is allergic should never be given to that patient.
Failing to give patients proper instructions to prepare for anesthesia. In many cases, the patient receiving anesthesia should not eat or drink
for several hours before the procedure. If a patient isn’t given
these instructions and enters the procedure with a full stomach, serious
injuries or death can result.
Mismonitoring during anesthesia. Patients who are “under” anesthesia need to be carefully monitored
to ensure their vital systems are functioning properly. Failure to monitor
properly increases the chances that the medical team will miss a vital
clue – and act too late.
Defective medical devices and equipment used to administer anesthesia. To monitor a patient properly, the medical team has to have equipment that
works and gives accurate readings. Failing to make sure equipment is in
good working order is an error that can cause harm.
Anesthesia errors can lead to severe pain, injury, or even death. While you can help prevent
errors by following instructions, asking questions, and telling your doctors
about all your medications (including vitamins and supplements), ultimately
it is the job of your medical team to meet the standard of care for anesthesia.