What is Spinal Anesthesia?

Spinal anesthesia, also called subarachnoid or intrathecal anesthesia is usually considered a highly reliable method of anesthesia administration. It refers to a temporary state of numbness to pain, loss of responsiveness, loss of reflexes in skeletal muscles, amnesia, and diminished response to stress.

Depending upon the desired effect on the patient, administering anesthesia may involve various types of drugs and methods of administration. Despite being one of the most commonly used procedures, the possibility of errors in administering spinal anesthesia, or its side effects are frequently encountered in hospitals.

Spinal Anesthesia Errors

Errors in administering spinal anesthesia can happen in different ways:

· Lumbar puncture site infections

· Error in preparation or injection of solution

· Inadequate or improper spread of anesthetic drugs through the cerebrospinal fluid

· Poor drug action on nervous tissue

· Inaccurate amounts of drug being administered

· Doctor's negligence of patient's side effects or allergic reactions to anesthetic drugs

Various other factors can lead to errors involving spinal anesthesia:

· Administering the wrong amounts of anesthetic drugs

· Delay in administering or delivering anesthesia

· Administering the wrong drug

· Failure to stop an anesthetic interaction with other prescription drugs

· Administering anesthetics that have allergic side effects on the patient

· Failure to educate the patient about the right diet and liquid intake prior to anesthesia

· Usage of defective medical equipment while administering anesthesia

· Improper attention to oxygen levels during, pre or post administration of anesthesia and the surgery itself

Impact of Spinal Anesthesia Errors

Spinal anesthesia errors can lead to serious implications for the patient. Most errors occur due to incorrect dosages of drugs being administered. Complications could multiply if the needle is not inserted in the correct location or angle. Anesthesiologists must therefore keep a close eye while monitoring anesthesia and oxygen levels to avoid any adverse effects. Some of the possible impacts and consequences of a spinal anesthesia error are:

· Tinnitus - a blaring noise in the ears

· Heart arrhythmia

· Brain damage

· Organ damage

· Dizziness, blurred vision or confusion

· Cardiovascular collapse

· Spinal cord injury, which leads to paralysis (paraplegia)

· Maternal hypotension

· Spinal disorders

· Brain lesions

· Sepsis

· Asphyxia - inadequate supply of oxygen

· Nerve, vein and artery damage

· Seizure and stroke

· Leakage of spinal cord fluid

· Dropped foot

· Coma

· Death

Large doses of an anesthetic drug can lead to respiratory paralysis. Paralyzing the intercostal muscles (muscles lying between the ribs) and diaphragm can be caused when the phrenic and intercostal nerves are blocked, leading to difficulty in breathing.

Heart rate and blood pressure will immediately drop, and any level of emergency treatment may prove to be insufficient to save the life, depending upon the severity of the error. Paraplegia and quadriplegia are paralytic effects that will permanently disable the patient and his ability to lead a normal life.

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