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How Common Are Anesthetic Errors?

“Going under” can be nerve-wracking. When the doctor administers anesthetic, you have to trust that they’ll do everything right and that you’ll wake up, safely, in a few hours.

Unfortunately, doctors and anesthesiologists self-report thousands of sedative mistakes every single day. Just how common are anesthesia errors? More than they should be.

How Often?

Typically there are three kinds of anesthetic errors. If a doctor doesn’t use it enough, the patient might wake up too early (though this is rare). If they use too much, the patient may overdose or suffer other injuries.

The third type of anesthetic error is the “syringe swap,” which may occur when doctors don’t verify medication before administering or when deciding between “look-alike and sound-alike” drugs.

For example, a doctor may reach into their coat pocket for a countermeasure but don’t verify the medication and instead administer more sedative. This is more common than it has any right to be, with an estimated 1.5 million cases per year and 80% of anesthesiologists self-reporting these kinds of errors.

It’s genuinely frightening how often these errors occur—some estimates suggesting anesthetic error rates as high as 1-in-200.

What’s the Harm?

Anesthesia errors are common, but are they dangerous? It greatly depends on the circumstances. Older patients and those with systemic diseases (like cancer) tend to be more sensitive to anesthesia errors and are more likely to suffer wrongful death due to receiving too much sedative.

Other patients might experience severe adverse reactions (such as lung and heart problems) if they received the wrong medication or too much medication. Many of these cases require an extended hospital stay.

A smaller percentage, about 1-in-8, who experienced anesthesia error had some degree of brain damage. With the stakes this high, it’s crucial that anyone who believes they experienced an anesthesia error contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible!

If you or someone you love experienced medical malpractice, you may have a case. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Northwest Indiana medical malpractice attorney who cares, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (219) 212-2462 so we can discuss your options.