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Understanding the Many Types of Anesthesia and Associated Risk Factors

AnesthesiaNo patient wants to hear that surgery is in their foreseeable future. Not only can the actual surgery procedure raise anxiety levels but fully understanding the dangers of administering anesthesia brings forth another level of anxiety.

Anesthesia is a form of medication designed to decrease pain and make the surgical procedure more comfortable for the patient. The type of surgical procedure dictates the form of anesthesia administered. The most common anesthesia types are:

  • General Anesthesia - used to ensure the patient is completely asleep throughout the procedure. This type of anesthesia is often used for most types of surgeries and is generally administered through an intravenous line (IV), face mask or nose or throat tube;
  • Spinal or Epidural Anesthesia - often administered to numb the lower body extremities and often administered during childbirth, hernia repairs or appendix extractions;
  • Interscalene Block - often administered to specific areas of the body, such as the shoulder or upper body extremities;
  • IV Regional Anesthesia - often administered to numb a specific area of the body, such as an arm or leg;
  • Local Anesthesia - often administered for the purpose of numbing a small area of the body and is often used during minor surgical procedures such as a biopsy or dental procedure. Although this form alleviates pain, the patient may still feel pressure;
  • Peripheral Nerve Block - often classified as a dual performance anesthesia administered to numb a specific area of the body or to treat severe chronic pain; and
  • Saddle Block - This form of anesthesia is also referred to as Caudal Anesthesia and is often administered to numb areas of soft tissue, such as the buttocks, inner thighs, and hips. It may also be used to repair an episiotomy following childbirth.

Historically, the introduction and evolution of the various forms of anesthesia can be considered one of the major achievements of medicine. Since its inception in 1846, anesthesia has alleviated the greatest fear of surgery, the elimination of pain.

As medicine advances, renowned institutions, such as The Mayo Clinic, have relied heavily on research and education to advance the world-wide usage of anesthesia but even with a low risk of complications, some factors may increase the risks associated with the administration of anesthesia, resulting in possible medical malpractice suits.

Most commonly, the older the patient the higher the risk, especially for those undergoing extensive surgeries which may produce symptoms of postoperative confusion, pneumonia, stroke or cardiac arrest. There are other underlying conditions or lifestyle choices which may also increase the level of risk, no matter the patient’s age, including:

  • Alcoholism;
  • Aspirin regimen;
  • Diabetes;
  • Drug allergies;
  • Heart, lung, or kidney Conditions;
  • High blood pressure;
  • History of seizures;
  • Obesity;
  • Obstructive sleep apnea;
  • Previous anesthesia reactions; or
  • Tobacco use.

Although the administration of anesthesia is a relatively safe and a necessary pre-operative procedure, the development of complications can arise due to human error. Errors by an anesthesiologist, such as not properly monitoring the patient, not accurately measuring the dosage at onset or the levels in the patient’s system throughout the surgery can pose problems and exacerbate complications.

The Mayo Clinic estimates that one or two people in every 10,000 undertaking anesthesia may lay partially awake and experience intraoperative awareness or others may develop long-term psychological problems similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you or a loved one believe that you are experiencing post-operative medical difficulties possibly due to an anesthesia error, the skilled San Jose medical malpractice attorneys of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. understand the medical, personal and legal complexities of your situation. Our experienced legal team will seek accountability and the compensation you or your loved one deserves. Contact our offices today at (408) 289-1417 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.