Is anaesthesia safe?
Is anaesthesia safe?
June 1, 2021

The short answer is yes, although when things go wrong it can be significant for the patient.

Anaesthetics are substances that reduce your sensitivity to pain. So, you will normally be offered one or more types of anaesthetic agent before you undergo an operation.

The are 3 types of anaesthesia used in medicine; general, regional and local. A general anaesthetic will make you unconscious (asleep) during the operation, a regional anaesthetic is injected near some nerves in the spine to make a region of the body numb during an operation. For example, an epidural is often used during childbirth.

A local anaesthetic numbs a smaller part of the body, e.g. for dental extractions.

Modern anaesthetics have been used since the 1840s and are usually very safe. However, sometimes things do go wrong. Occasionally leading to claims for clinical negligence.

In 2022 a scientific paper was published which analysed data for medical negligence claims in the UK from 1995 to 2018.

The scientists looked at 1,230 claims against anaesthetists and compared claims between the period 1995-2017 and 2008-2018. Anaesthesia now accounts for a small percentage of claims submitted on behalf of Claimants, although the number of cases has increased.

The main findings were that “The most common clinical categories were regional anaesthesia (24%), inadequate anaesthesia (20%) and drug administration (20%). Claims related to airway management, central venous catheterisation and cardiac arrest remained infrequent but severe and costly. The proportion of claims relating to regional anaesthesia and obstetric anaesthesia fell significantly, but claims relating to peripheral nerve blockade doubled.”

The absolute costs of successful claims had increased, although the average cost per case had decreased.

Overall, they concluded that “the specialty of anaesthesia is at low risk of litigation”. This is reassuring for those who require an anaesthetic.

If you, or a loved one are affected by clinical negligence then please do contact us for a no-obligation review. If we take your case on then we can offer a ‘no win, no fee’ funding arrangement.


Related Articles