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Anesthetic errors can lead to serious consequences

Anesthesia is one of the most complicated parts of medicine. Dosages and mixtures have to be accurate and measured for each patient individually based on numerous factors.

As a patient, you’re at your most vulnerable when you’re under anesthesia. Here are three common anesthesia errors and how you can help make sure your anesthesiologist doesn’t make them.

1. Dosage errors

Dosage errors are serious because too much or too little of an anesthetic drug could lead to a patient waking up during a surgery or never waking up at all. As a patient, it’s important to talk to your anesthesiologist about your weight, which is used to calculate the dosage of drugs needed, as well as any allergies to medications you have. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and your anesthesiologist will be happy to hear your confirmation of important information.

2. Documentation errors

Errors about the patient and anesthesia can lead to injuries and fatalities. For instance, an anesthesiologist might complete a Surgical Procedures document on the patient’s anesthesia record before the surgery is over, leading to mistakes if more drugs have to be administered. In most cases, this kind of error isn’t life-threatening, but a patient with a different cocktail or drugs in their system than expected could run into complications if more have to be given. There is little you can do as a patient to prevent these errors.

3. Poor IV flow rate

Finally, there is the issue of a poor IV flow. Without a proper flow into the veins, there are serious problems that can arise for patients. IV flow rates have to be set accurately according to the medication’s description and each patient’s needs. For instance, did you know that pumping fluids too fast can give patients headaches, anxiety and trouble breathing? This can even result in compromising the vein by bursting it.

On the other end of the spectrum, not pushing enough medication fast enough could result in a patient not reacting as expected to a drug. The patient may not fall asleep, may remain in pain or suffer other complications. If you’re receiving an IV and notice swelling where the catheter is inserted or start to have unusual side effects, it’s a good idea to call for a nurse or to speak up right away as it could indicate IV infiltration.

Usually, it’s simple to adjust the IV flow, which can help you feel more comfortable quickly. If needed, some medications could also be administered to offset previous symptoms from an improperly placed or set IV.

Being a patient is hard, and while under anesthesia, you’re at the most risk of injury. Good safety is up to your doctors and anesthesiologist, but you can still do what you can to remind them of your personal needs and how you feel going into an operation.


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