While anesthesia carries some health risks, surgical pain relief is relatively safe for most patients. However, anesthesia errors can and do cause serious health complications.
Learn about the dangers associated with anesthesia and strategies to prepare yourself for surgery:
Meet your anesthesiologist
Ask your doctor to introduce you to the anesthesia team before the surgery date. You will have a chance to ask questions about your anesthesia options and fully understand the risks of each.
Review your history
You may be at risk for an adverse anesthesia reaction if a family member has a history of this type of response. Let your doctor know about any such history before your procedure.
Follow medical instructions
Your doctor will provide instructions about eating and drinking before your surgery. Generally, you should avoid eating after midnight on the night before the surgery. Ask the provider if he or she does not give you specific instructions in advance of your procedure.
Understand the types of errors
Many anesthesia errors involve dosing. For example, the doctor may give too little or too much anesthesia. He or she may wait too long to administer pain relief or deliver the wrong type of anesthesia to the patient.
Doctors may also fail to recognize life-threatening medication interactions, allergies and other adverse reactions to the anesthesia. The provider may fail to give patients proper preparation instructions for the surgery or fail to monitor the patient sufficiently while he or she is under anesthesia. Some errors involve defective medical devices and equipment used in anesthesia delivery.
Know the potential consequences of an anesthesia error
Problems with surgical anesthesia can potentially cause damage to organs, including the heart and brain. Limited oxygen supply can cause heart arrhythmia, brain damage or even death. Anesthesia errors sometimes cause comas, hyperthermia, strokes, seizures, blood pressure issues, paralysis or spinal cord injuries. When the patient is pregnant, an anesthesia error can put her unborn baby at risk for cerebral palsy.
Less serious effects of anesthesia problems include blurred vision, confusion, ringing ears and sensory issues. Talk to the doctor right away if you or a loved one experiences these symptoms after surgery.