When you’re undergoing surgery, an anesthesiologist will provide sedation or general anesthesia to ensure that you don’t feel the pain of the procedure. However, anesthesiologists are human beings, so they can make mistakes just like anyone else. Hospitals and clinics around the country implement protocols to protect patients, but mistakes can still happen.
Close to 40 million procedures involving anesthesia are performed every year in the United States. According to a study performed at Johns Hopkins, more than a quarter of a million people die each year due to medical errors, making this the third-leading cause of death in the nation. While not all of these deaths are directly related to errors made by anesthesiologists, some of them are, so it’s certainly cause for concern.
One of the most common mistakes made in the process of administering anesthesia is an error in the dosing. Medications must be dosed carefully based on the age, height, and weight of the patient, along with other critical factors. Errors in dosing are often made by anesthesiologists who don’t have a lot of experience, as well as those who are using different types of equipment or devices than they are used to using. Carelessness, haste, and inattention account for over 5 percent of the dosing errors made, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Mistakes in Documentation
When it comes to medicine, documentation is critical to ensure proper quality of care and transfer between the various staff members who might attend to a patient. Before, during, and after a surgery, a patient may interact with a number of medical professionals, so it’s important that everyone involved is on the same page. If an anesthesiologist fails to document the information about the medications given, potential side effects, vital signs, and other critical patient details, others treating that patient might administer a medication that causes a reaction.
Documentation errors can also cause billing issues, but the potential patient concerns are much riskier. Some of the most common documentation mistakes include unclear or missing information about medications given during the procedure or for post-operative pain control and completing a section of the patient record before the procedure is complete.
Lack of Monitoring
A major part of an anesthesiologist’s job is monitoring the patient throughout the procedure, as well as after the surgery is complete. Failing to monitor vital signs, including blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, IV lines, and heart function could result in serious complications. Constant monitoring is essential to preventing anesthesia mistakes. Vital signs and fluid output should be recorded every five minutes while the patient is asleep. No patient should ever be discharged from the operating room until their vital signs are stable and documented as such.
If you have faced the effects of an anesthesia mistake, you may be dealing with health problems that make it difficult to manage the tasks of daily life. Mistakes can cause heart problems, loss of brain function, and other serious complications, as well as potential loss of life. At David W. Singer & Associates, P.A., we have personal injury attorneys who can help you during this challenging time.