Over 85% of anesthesiologists admit to committing an anesthesia error or a near-miss during their careers. In total, anesthesia errors with an adverse event happen in one out of every 20 anesthesia administrations.
These adverse events can range from allergic reactions to death. Deaths happen in about one in every 250,000 anesthesia administrations. But anesthesia injuries still happen all too frequently.
Here is an overview of the types of anesthesia injury and how to seek compensation for one.
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Why Do Doctors Use Anesthesia?
Anesthesia can cause severe injuries when administered incorrectly. But it serves several important purposes, including:
Keeping You Comfortable
Anesthesia blocks sensations, including pain. During an invasive procedure, doctors will likely stimulate nerves that will produce pain signals. When you receive an anesthetic, you will not feel much of the pain caused by a procedure.
Making the Doctor’s Job Easier
Working on a patient who is in pain can endanger both patients and their doctors. By administering anesthesia, the doctor can work undisturbed.
Improving the Safety of the Procedure
When correctly administered, anesthetics give doctors predictable results. Your nervous system can react even when sedatives render you unconscious. As a result, doctors might need to operate on organs, muscles, and other tissues that jump around under the effects of sedatives. In contrast, anesthetics paralyze your nervous system, stopping all voluntary and involuntary movement.
How Do Anesthetics Work?
Anesthetics can produce several effects, including:
- Paralyzing your nerves
- Blocking pain signals
- Rendering you unconscious
Different types of anesthetics produce these effects in different locations and different ways. Anesthetics fall into three categories:
Local anesthetics only work in the area where the doctor or dentist administers them. Local anesthetics usually block nerve signals using ion channel blockers.
Nerve cells, also called neurons, communicate with each other using a combination of chemistry and electricity. When a neuron gets stimulated, it moves charged particles called ions from inside the cell to its surface through ion channels.
The next neuron in the chain senses the change in electric charge and moves its ions to its surface. This chain reaction continues until the nerve signal reaches the brain.
Ion channel blockers prevent neurons from passing ions from inside the cell to its surface. As a result, the signal gets dropped before it can reach the brain.
Procaine, the generic name for Novocaine, is an ion channel blocker used by dentists and oral surgeons. This anesthetic can numb and paralyze your mouth during a dental procedure.
Regional anesthetics numb an entire region. Rather than administering them in the anesthetized area, doctors administer regional anesthetics to the nerve root serving the area.
As your spinal cord passes down your back, it branches into nerve roots at each vertebra. These nerve roots carry all of the nerves for a region of your body. For example, the nerve root that carries the nerves for your shoulders and arm sits in your neck.
When doctors administer regional anesthetics to a nerve root, the entire area gets anesthetized. Doctors use a regional anesthetic when administering an epidural during labor and childbirth.
Regional anesthetics usually combine an ion channel blocker like procaine or lidocaine with a neurotransmitter receptor blocker. Neurotransmitter receptor blockers prevent your brain from accepting neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters carry chemical signals to your brain that tell it what a nerve has sensed. By blocking neurotransmitters, your brain does not receive the pain signals generated by nerves.
Opiates act as neurotransmitter receptor blockers. When doctors administer opiates, your body still generates pain signals, but you do not experience pain because those pain signals get blocked in the brain.
General anesthetics combine anesthetics, like ion channel blockers or neurotransmitter receptor blockers, with a sedative. Doctors use general anesthetics during procedures that require you to sleep. This might happen when the procedure:
- Takes a long time
- Requires invasive instruments
- Involves detailed work by the doctor
When administering general anesthetics, the anesthesiologist must provide breathing support because the general anesthetic can paralyze the muscles responsible for breathing. The anesthesiologist will also monitor your vital signs, like your blood pressure, temperature, brain function, and heart rate, to make sure you do not experience distress. At the end of the procedure, the anesthesiologist will bring you out of the sedated state.
What Are Some Examples of Anesthesia Injuries?
Anesthesia injuries can take many forms, depending on the error that happens during your procedure. Some examples of anesthesia injuries include:
An overdose happens when you receive too much anesthesia. If you receive too much local or regional anesthetic, the anesthetic can damage the ion channels of your nerves. This will cause permanent nerve damage.
An overdose of a general anesthetic can sedate you so deeply that you become comatose. An overdose can even kill you.
Overdoses can happen for many reasons, including:
- Pharmacists delivering the wrong dose or concentration
- Anesthesiologists miscalculating the dose
- Dentists or anesthesiologists administering the wrong dose
Anesthesiologists, doctors, and dentists can avoid overdoses by double-checking anesthetics before administering them.
An underdose happens when a doctor does not administer enough anesthetic. This can lead to severe pain.
Another form of underdose can cause anesthetic awareness. Anesthetic awareness happens when an anesthesiologist administers too little sedative. The patient remains awake but paralyzed during a procedure. The patient might not experience any pain due to the anesthesia but will experience mental trauma from remaining awake as the doctor operates on them.
Underdoses happen when anesthesiologists incorrectly calculate or administer the anesthetic or sedative.
Your brain can suffer permanent damage after only four minutes without oxygen. Brain injuries can happen when anesthesiologists fail to monitor your vital signs, and your brain gets deprived of oxygen. It can also happen if you go into distress while under general anesthesia and the anesthesiologist fails to provide breathing support.
How Do I Get Compensation for an Anesthesia Injury?
Healthcare providers in Nevada must meet the professional standard of care when treating patients. A provider commits medical malpractice when the provider fails to meet this standard, and the patient suffers an injury. Not every error amounts to malpractice. But unreasonable errors can support a claim for injury compensation.
Contact a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Anesthesia injuries can produce catastrophic effects. You might suffer permanent brain damage that prevents you from working or meeting your daily needs. To learn about the compensation you can receive for your anesthesia injury, contact a personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, NV, from Battle Born Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (702) 570-9000.