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Your guide to anaesthesia awareness

Patient being given an anaesthetic - anaesthesia awareness

Every year in the UK, an estimated 3.5 million operations are conducted, in which anaesthetics are given and continually monitored to ensure the patient remains unconscious throughout the entire procedure.

An error made by an anaesthetist when administering or monitoring the anaesthetic can, however, cause disastrous and severe, life-long disabilities for the patient.

A patient is always owed a ‘duty of care’ and if there are strong reasons to believe that a mistake was made and the or the standard of care given by the anaesthetist fell below what is reasonable to expectation, then there may be a could be good grounds to enter a case ofor  clinical negligence

If you believe there were unexplained difficulties or complications... in the correct provision or monitoring of the anaesthetic during an operation, we can help you to investigate if you have not received the answers you need or of you are unable to make those enquiries yourself.  We recognise that when a patient has been injured you need to know you may feel you are not able to get an adequate, official response or are being prevented from finding out how and why the system failed your and your family.

To prove a clinical negligence case you need specialist lawyers who have knowledge of both the law legal and medicine.  At Your Legal Friend we are specialist we are al issues together with a sympathetic and sensitive understanding of how you and your family have been everyone involved is affected because we have acted for many clients like you.

Your first step should be ... to discuss your concerns and the specific circumstances before, during and after surgery with our dedicated clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend.

Your Legal Friend has specialist lawyer 30 years experience in successfully resolving many different types of cases. Our dedicated clinical negligence team who can help you obtain an explanation for why a “routine procedure went wrong” and proper secure full compensation for to cover the often lifelong consequences  of a failure to properly administer or monitor an anaesthetic.

What is Anaesthesia Awareness?

Accidental  awareness  during  general  anaesthesia (AAGA) – more commonly referred to as ‘anaesthesia awareness’- is a known and fortunately rare occurrence, in which a patient remembers awaking and being conscious of their surroundings during a surgical procedure but is unable to communicate to the medical staff.

Specific sensations, which may be recalled include, tugging, stitching, pain, paralysis and choking accompanied by feelings of panic, extreme fear, suffocation and even of dying.

Recent survey statistics

  • One  in 20 of the UK population will require an anaesthetic each year
  • One in every 19,000 patients experience “accidental  awareness” during  general  anaesthesia (AAGA)
  • An estimated 158 patients could suffer from a failed anaesthetic each year

    (The 5th National Audit Project NAP5 - Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) Sep 2014)

Difference between ‘general’ and ‘local’ anaesthetic

• A general anaesthetic - is intended to make a patient completely unconscious for the duration of the procedure, or

• A local anaesthetic is applied to numb a specific body area only.

Problems associated with anaesthetics 

Anaesthesia is consultant-led. This means a senior doctor is present for more than eight in ten of all occasions when anaesthetics are administered and for three in every four occasions when they are administered “out of hours”. The proper A duty of care and a high standard of skill is expected to be maintained throughout.

Factors affecting anaesthetic dosage

A  range of factors are calculated in the level of anaesthetics administered, including:

  • Patient weight
  • Patient age
  • Relevant medical history

Current techniques enable anaesthetists to try and give patients the minimum level of anaesthetic required to reduce the risk of complications, especially if deeper anaesthetic levels may need to be used.

Difficulties or complications may arise during surgery if:

  • Anaesthetics were incorrectly or poorly administered
  • The patient was not properly monitored during anaesthesia
  • A drop in blood pressure was either not noted or failed to be prevented
  • Faulty equipment is used
  • Medical training was inadequate
  • The patient has high drug tolerance levels and this was not recognised

Risk factors

While anaesthetic failures most often occur before surgery starts or after it finishes, patients are at higher risk of experiencing anaesthesia awareness:

  • During a caesarean section
  • If they are obese, or
  • Have breathing / airway restrictions at the start of anaesthesia

Muscle relaxants

Anaesthetics are administered to prevent feeling any sensation or pain, and often also includes a muscle relaxant, which may leave a patient unable to move or make any signal whatsoever.

Patients given muscle relaxants for particular types of surgery, such as cardiothoracic operations and caesarean sections  are at a higher risk of suffering complications.

Further errors associated with anaesthesia

Anaesthetic Nerve / Spinal Cord Injuries

Anaesthetics can be mistakenly injected into the spinal cord or into nerves causing severe, painful injuries and leaving a patient with a serious disability.

Anaesthetic Brain Damage and Stroke

A failure by the anaesthetist to correctly regulate a patient’s blood pressure can cause severe brain damage or a stroke.

Post operation symptoms

While research has shown that most incidence of anaesthesia awareness are brief and not a cause for concern, around five in ten episodes have led to patient distress and four in ten cause longer-term psychological harm.

A small number of patients who experience anaesthesia awareness may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and levels of associated anxiety behaviour, including severe phobias, nightmares, insomnia and in very extreme cases, attempted suicides.

Making a claim for clinical negligence in administering anaesthetics

The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) have recommended that before surgery a ‘check list’ for ensuring the correct administering of anaesthetics should be carried out.

However, in any clinical negligence claim it is necessary to prove...

  • Whatever type of injury has been sustained, it must have been avoidable ‘at the time and in the circumstances’ with proper care, and
  • Due to the negligence of a person who owed you a duty of care, and
  • Due to the negligence of a person who demonstrated a lack of skill.

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

When a routine procedure, such as administering anaesthetics goes unexpectedly wrong, the impact upon all concerned is not only devastating in the immediate aftermath but it could bring lifelong consequences.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, our task is to ensure:

  • Your case will be properly investigated heard
  • A full explanation for what happened is received, and
  • You are properly compensated so you have the Financial resources for the care and treatment you need as aresult of your injuryneeded are provided

Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain the answers they need and the compensation to which they are entitledreceive the justice they deserve, which could prevent others from suffering in a similar way.