Modern anesthesia has made medical miracles possible -- and it's used in almost 40 million procedures a year.
Naturally, that means mistakes sometimes happen. However, many of those mistakes are avoidable with a little extra care.
What you can control
If you're a patient -- or are present to advocate on behalf of a friend or family member -- these are two of the things that you want to try to guard against:
1. Documentation mistakes
It's important to listen carefully when the nurse goes over your list of medications and medical allergies in order to make certain that your complete medical history is documented.
This is also the time you want to make sure to mention prior problems with anesthesia -- whether you wake up too quickly or have woken up sick in the past.
It may be necessary to repeat any critical information -- like a serious latex allergy -- to each member of the anesthesia team as you meet them.
2. Poor pain management
You also need to advocate for yourself (or the person you're with) regarding effective pain management after you've had surgery.
If you were withdrawn from anesthesia too rapidly, you may end up experiencing headaches, nausea and vomiting.
If you experience any of these symptoms, don't suffer in silence. Let your nurse know immediately that you're having problems and ask for some relief.
What you can't control
There are other issues with anesthesia that you can't control or even watch. However, you need to be alert to areas where mistakes are common -- if one happens, you may be able to identify what went wrong.
1. Dosing Errors
You may not realize an error happened during dosage unless you come out of the anesthesia too quickly or find out that you barely came out of it at all.
Dosing errors can include simple mismanagement or allowing too much of the residual anesthetics in your IV tube to make it into your system after surgery is over.
2. Unclear Directions
It's important that you be given clear directions as you are leaving the hospital about how the anesthesia can continue to affect you even hours later. If you weren't given that information, and something adverse happened, that's a serious problem.
Source: ElCAM Safety, "5 Mistakes in Anesthesia and How to Avoid Them," accessed Sep. 29, 2017