What You Need to Know About Anesthesia Complications May 10, 2017.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anesthesia complications are rare but do occur. The most commonly seen injuries from anesthesia are due to negligence, and can include brain injury, death, coma, heart attack, and stroke. Here’s what you need to know about anesthesia complications, how they can be avoided, and what to do if you or a loved one were the victim of an anesthesia complication.

The Importance of Screening Patients Before General Anesthesia

Proper screening is paramount to ensuring that anesthesia is safe for a particular patient. Screening should include:

  • Allergy evaluation. It should be determined whether or not a patient has an allergy to any of the drugs used during anesthesia, and if they do, that drug and any drug in the same class should be avoided.
  • Prescription medication evaluation. The patient’s full prescription history should be evaluated to determine if the patient is taking any medications that are contraindicated with the anesthesia agents. If a patient is given anesthesia and they are taking a medication that is contraindicated, anaphylactic shock may occur, which requires immediate resuscitation.
  • Physical evaluation. Patients with certain health or physical conditions may need to undergo testing to ensure their heart and lungs can withstand the stress that anesthesia puts on the cardiovascular system. Additionally, the height and weight of a patient, as well as their history of tolerating anesthesia, should be evaluated since the dose of anesthetics must be calculated properly according to the individual patient.

Failure to properly screen a patient before anesthesia can easily lead to a critical or even deadly result.

The Importance of Giving Anesthesia Correctly

First and foremost, anesthesia drugs must be given slowly and titrated carefully according to the information gleaned from the original evaluation. Errors in the amount of anesthesia given or at what rate they are given can cause cardiac and respiratory distress.

When patients undergo anesthesia, the anesthetic drugs used cause patients to stop breathing. A ventilator must be used to take over breathing for the patient. In order to accomplish this, the patient must first be intubated. A small mouth or narrow airway can cause difficulty in placing the intubation tube, and if placed incorrectly, such as in the esophagus instead of the trachea, air flow will go into the stomach instead of the lungs.

Additionally, if the drugs are given before the intubation tube is inserted properly, the patient could potentially stop breathing before systems are in place to breathe for them.

Oxygen is crucial during anesthesia, and a lack of it can cause severe injury and even death. The heart and lungs will be the last to suffer damage, however, brain damage can occur in just three to five minutes without adequate oxygen.

The Importance of Monitoring Patients While Under Anesthesia

Careful monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration is required while a patient is anesthetized; however, most anesthesia doctors leave the room once the patient is put to sleep. Many hospitals have as many as eight operating rooms and surgeries going on at the same time in each one. One or two anesthesiologists will cover the entire operating suite with the anesthesia assistants or nurse anesthetists directly monitoring each patient.

Some of the most significant problems that can occur during the monitoring of a patient under anesthesia is the over or under ventilation of a patient. A patient who is over ventilated can experience a buildup of carbon dioxide, which can cause respiratory or cardiac arrest. Under ventilation may result in the patient not receiving enough oxygen to the brain and vital organs.

The Importance of Reversing Anesthesia Drugs

When the procedure has been completed, the anesthesiologist must reverse the drugs in the patient’s system so they can begin to breath on their own again. If the patient is taken off the ventilator before the drugs have been reversed completely, they may struggle to breathe on their own.

Additionally, if the anesthesia drugs are not completely reversed when the patient is moved to the recovery room, the patient may experience a severe drop in blood pressure or may stop breathing while in recovery.


Anesthesia accidents can be explained by inattention, inexperience, or someone just not doing their job completely or correctly. In most cases, injuries resulting from anesthesia could have been prevented if the doctors or persons assisting them followed the proper rules.

Victims of anesthesia complications and their families need professional help to gather evidence and analyze the situation. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a problem with anesthesia, you should contact us here at the Mellino Law Firm, LLC. You can schedule a free and confidential legal consultation by dialing (440) 333-3800.