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Should you be concerned about the risk of anesthesia error?

We often write here on our blog about things that can go wrong due to a provider's negligence during a surgical procedure. However, there's another risk factor during any surgery, major or minor, that doesn't depend on the surgeon at all.

We're talking about anesthesia error. The professional anesthetist who is in charge of putting you, as a patient to sleep; keeping you unconscious but stable throughout the procedure; and waking you back up safely afterwards manages a complex set of variables. As Ann Arbor patients prepare to undergo surgery, whether major or minor, many will wonder: is anesthesia error something to worry about?

Unfortunately, there are causes for concern regarding medical malpractice in the field of anesthesia. An anesthetist must manage a complex set of powerful medications at different stages of the procedure. Just like with any other medications prescribed by a doctor, there is the chance that an error will occur.

Errors with anesthesia medications can be the result of a number of factors. These include:

  • Administering an overdose of medication.
  • Using the wrong medication at the wrong time.
  • Forgetting to administer a certain medication.
  • Using medications that should not be used together, or that should not be used on a particular patient.

It's also possible that an anesthesia medication was prepared or labeled incorrectly. This risk is always present, but can lead to a serious, emergency situation when a patient is in the middle of surgery. Anesthesia errors can be so serious, in fact, that they can be fatal.

Anesthesia errors may warrant a medical malpractice claim, but it can be difficult to know when this is the case given the nature of the patient's interaction with the anesthetist. We'll discuss this in more detail in a follow-up post.

Source: National Institutes of Health, "Medication error in anaesthesia and critical care: A cause for concern," accessed on Dec. 4, 2015

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