Anesthesia is a lot safer than it used to be, thanks to a concerted effort by leaders in anesthesiology over the last thirty years to eliminate medical malpractice from the use of anesthesia. No one any longer accepts the notion that death or serious injury “sometimes just happens” when anesthesia is used. Usually there is a human error of some kind: someone is not watching what they are supposed to do, or they use too much of a strong anesthetic drug, or the patient deteriorates and the anesthetist doesn’t respond like he or she should. In all those instances and others, medical malpractice should be carefully investigated if there is a serious injury.
Patients also can get hurt when surgeons take shortcuts by deciding not to have a board-certified MD anesthesiologist in the facility to supervise nurse anesthetists, or by deciding not to use even a certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
Other anesthesia errors than can constitute medical malpractice include:
- Harmful drug interactions;
- Allowing the patient’s blood pressure to drop too low during surgery, causing a stroke;
- Loss of the airway;
- Failure to use available monitoring equipment for the patient’s heartbeat and breathing;
- Inattention by the staff to changes in the patient’s condition;
- Nerve injury caused by positioning the patient’s body in a way that puts undue pressure or stretch on a nerve;
- Nerve injury from improper nerve block technique. (This is called “regional anesthesia.”)
Research shows that nurse anesthetists deliver care that is about as safe and high quality as physician anesthesiologists. But I still recommend that every patient ask one question before being put to sleep by a nurse anesthetist… Read more …
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