More and more news stories are cropping up about patients waking up or becoming aware of their surroundings while under the influence of anaesthesia. Because of the highly refined techniques used to put a patient under anaesthetic – and to keep them there – unfortunately, sometimes mistakes can be made and a patient ends up being aware of their surroundings. Awareness during anaesthesia can be an incredibly scary and traumatic experience and can leave a patient with further damage, both physical and psychological.
What Is Anaesthesia?
General anaesthesia is used during operations to induce unconsciousness to stop the patient from feeling any pain. It usually includes a muscle relaxant to keep the body relaxed and to ensure that the surgeon can perform the operation properly. How much anaesthesia a patient needs during surgery depends on a number of factors, including their age, previous medical health, weight and family history.
What Causes Anaesthetic Awareness?
The techniques used to put a patient under general anaesthetic are now more refined than ever before. Generally, anaesthetists aim to keep the patient unconscious, but to a minimal level – research has suggested that putting patients who are particularly at risk of complications under too deep a general anaesthetic could be dangerous. Minimum general anaesthetic also means that the patient recovers from the operation more quickly, improving recovery time. Generally, anaesthetists are very careful with regards to the amount of anaesthetic that they administer, checking that the patient is fully unconscious before the operation begins. Unfortunately, if the wrong levels of anaesthetic are administered or if the doctors fail to properly monitor the patient – for example, for signs of distress – the patient could experience awareness during the anaesthetic.
Anaesthetic awareness is when an individual is under general anaesthetic, usually meaning that they cannot move or speak or communicate, but they can feel sensations and in some severe cases, pain. Being unable to communicate can be especially terrifying for the patient, and in a number of cases, anaesthetic awareness has led to a number of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Awareness during an anaesthetic could be caused by a number of different reasons, including human error, incorrect equipment or equipment that is malfunctioning, such as the monitoring equipment or the equipment used to administer the anaesthetic, and human negligence. If the anaesthetist administers the wrong amount of anaesthetic, brings the patient out of the anaesthetic too quickly or fails to recognise that the patient is regaining consciousness by failing to monitor their vital signs correctly, the anaesthetist could well be liable for medical negligence.
In some situations, anaesthetic awareness is much more likely – for example, when a woman has a caesarean, the anaesthetist might be reluctant to give the patient too much anaesthetic for fear of harming the baby. However, this does not mean anaesthetic awareness is more acceptable in these situations – whatever the scenario, anaesthetic awareness is a scary experience for anyone to go through.
If you’re looking to make a medical negligence claim due to anaesthetic awareness, speak to medical negligence lawyers specialists such like Axiclaim.