When you go in for surgery, you expect the procedure to help make things better. Unfortunately, there are times that does not happen. Despite being widely accepted as a relatively safe practice, the use of general anesthesia carries the potential for serious brain injuries.
Why does this happen? Here is a brief overview.
The risks involved with anesthesia are well-documented. The practice generally involves a combination of drugs – induction agents, muscle relaxants, narcotics, sedatives and more – that must be carefully administered and monitored. It also relies on the use of certain medical equipment.
While there are safeguards in place to protect patients, mistakes have happened. In fact, anesthesia errors are considered one of the top causes of medical malpractice. Types of errors can include:
- Administering too much anesthesia
- Failing to watch a patient’s vital signs
- Ineffective intubation
- The use of faulty equipment
- Use of the incorrect drug
How these mistakes lead to brain damage
Oftentimes, when caught quickly, these errors do not result in serious harm to a patient. However, when missed by medical professionals responsible for your care, they can result in potentially permanent brain damage.
Usually, it is because of a lack of oxygen. These errors, in various ways, may result in the brain not receiving enough of that vital element, a condition known as a hypoxic-anoxic injury. When deprived of oxygen, brain cells quickly start to die off. The longer this occurs, the more serious the damage may be.
This is not a reason to fear general anesthesia. The vast majority of procedures requiring its use result in no problems. However, it is important to be aware of the risks, no matter how small, as well as the potential next steps should the worst occur.