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What causes anesthesia errors during surgery?

The death of a high school principal in New Jersey made national headlines because of the situation's tragic nature. The principal had gone under the surgical knife so that he could donate his bone marrow to one of his students, potentially saving that student's life.

Instead, the principal's selfless act turned into a tragedy of epic proportions. The principal died on the operating table. However, it wasn't the bone marrow extraction that caused the principal's death. Instead, an anesthesia error claimed his life.

Anesthesia errors are some of the most common risks that patients face in the operating room. While anesthesia has become remarkably safer over the decades, mistakes still happen at an alarming rate. Even when a patient doesn't die, an anesthesia error can lead to an increased hospital stay and costs -- as well as permanent injuries.

What are some of the most common anesthesia errors reported? They include:

  • Clerical errors, which could include forgetting to note a drug allergy
  • Overdoses, meaning that too much anesthesia was administered or the drugs were administered too quickly
  • Substitution errors, meaning that the wrong anesthetic was used to replace a drug that couldn't be used
  • Omission errors, meaning that the anesthesiologist failed to monitor the patient appropriately

What leads to these particular errors? According to the research, the most common causes of mistakes with anesthesia include:

  • Inexperienced anesthesiologists
  • Unfamiliarity with medical devices
  • A lack of clear communication with team members
  • Rushing or being inattentive
  • Fatigue or relying on others to handle part of the job
  • Failing to perform routine checks

While there are other causes, as well, those are the top things that an experienced attorney is likely to look at when evaluating a potential medical malpractice case.

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