Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors can have consequences such as death or serious injury. When an anesthesia error or mistake causes death or injury, a medical malpractice claim may exist. At Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC, we work to obtain those answers and work to gain compensation for the injured and their loved ones.


Recently in San Diego, a 25 year-old business man died during a routine procedure to extract two wisdom teeth. The official cause of death will not be determined until after the autopsy. The preliminary cause has been attributed to an overdose of anesthesia and inadequate monitoring of the anesthesia during the procedure.

Although such a death is rare, it is still common enough to call attention to the risks of harm associated with undergoing anesthesia. Anyone who believes they or someone they know may have been harmed or even died due to an anesthesia error during a surgical procedure should contact a medical malpractice attorney who will review the situation. The attorney will investigate the case and determine if there were errors made.

Anesthesia is administered in hospital settings and outpatient surgery centers as well as in dentists and other medical specialty offices. Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who have several years of advanced training and have specialized in administering anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists are registered nurses who have taken extra training in administering anesthesia and passed a certification exam. If properly administered by either professional, the risks are low.

Anesthesiologists rank 12th in the cost of medical malpractice insurance among all medical specialists. Even so, 1 in 400,000 patients dies annually as a result of an anesthesia error in an outpatient setting. An additional 1 in 250,000 suffers some type of injury or complication from anesthesia errors. Some injuries are very serious and others result in permanent debilitation and suffering.

A 2009 study conducted by the Anesthesia Quality Institute found that 84 percent of anesthesiologists work more than 40 hours a week and the average work week for a clinical anesthesiologist is 49 hours. More than 50 percent of the states have a shortage of anesthesiologists, contributing to the extra work load of those who are practicing in their specialty. Working long hours has been proven to increase errors made by medical professionals.

Common anesthesia administration errors.

There are many types of anesthesia errors caused by the medical professional’s negligence. The main types that result in serious injury or death are:

  • Overdose. This is the most serious of all errors. Too much medication decreases respiration and the heart rate which cause a decrease in the blood oxygen level. When this happens, the patient may suffer serious brain injuries or, as happened to the young man in San Diego, the patient may even die. The correct dosage of anesthesia depends on the patient’s weight and other aspects of their medical history. Constant monitoring is essential so that the amount of the drugs being administered can be increased or decreased depending on the patient’s vital signs.
  • Allergic or other adverse reactions to the drug or drugs being used. All patients react differently. Some may suddenly break out in a simple rash. Others may experience complete anaphylactic shock that can result in death if not immediately treated. Statistics are not consistent as to how many allergic reactions there are. Some say one in 5000; others say one in 25,000.
  • An uncommon reaction is for a patient to suffer “malignant hypothermia ” which means exactly what it sounds like. The patient suffers from an extreme increase in their body temperature. Muscles become rigid and if the condition is not immediately treated, the patient may die. It may be that the actual condition was not caused by medical malpractice, but the failure to immediately note the reaction and treat it may be due to negligent monitoring.
  • Equipment failure causing improper administration of the drugs. The manufacturer of the equipment may be at fault for negligently producing a defective product. The medical professional may be negligent for failing to notice the product was defective. Your attorney will investigate to see if either of these conditions apply.
  • Improper monitoring. During the administration of anesthesia, anesthesiologists and anesthetists are required to continually monitor a patient’s respiration, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation level and other vital signs. The failure to properly monitor may result in the patient suffering adverse effects of the anesthesia without the knowledge of the anesthesiologist who was not paying attention so neglected to respond appropriately.

If you or someone you love has been injured or even died from what you believe to be an anesthesia error, consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The free initial consultation will cost you nothing. The attorney will review the facts of your case and the relevant law to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Negligence, or malpractice, can occur at any point during a surgery. Sometimes injuries sustained are due to mistakes by the doctor in charge of anesthesia. It may result from using an improper drug, not using enough of a particular paralytic, not recognizing a loss of oxygen, or improper intubation.

Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC has handled numerous medical malpractice and anesthesia error cases and will work with the proper experts to interpret the data and provide insight and testimony as to how the potential mistake occurred.

Anesthesia errors can result in death or brain injury. A medical malpractice lawsuit cannot reverse the medical outcome, but can provide compensation for suffering, future medical expenses, lost income or in-home care.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to an anesthesia error, call Meinhart, Smith & Manning today at (877) 776-1219 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Schedule Your Free Case Review

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.