Joan Rivers Death Highlights Why Anesthesia Remains a Concern
One of the great advances in modern medicine is anesthesia which affords a sterile, anesthetized and minimally invasive procedure. It is for this reason that the going under knife is no longer the potential death sentence it once was and why medical outcomes have improved substantially.
However, despite all the advances, anesthesia still carries inherent risks. What many people do not realize is that some of those risks have nothing to do with the surgery itself but with the preparation for the surgery, going under or being anesthetized. Some of the problems are less tangible like postoperative delirium as a Scientific American article discussed. However, others are much more tangible and could be much more dangerous. The Wall Street Journal last week ran an article both on the ways anesthesia can do harm and how anesthesiologists are trying their hardest to minimize the harm.
Complications that arise from anesthesia were highlighted last month by the death of comedian Joan Rivers who suffered a lack of oxygen during surgery while sedated with Propofol, a common complication with that anesthetic. Complications from anesthesia can range from cardiac arrest to damage to vocal chords and other complications including obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, heart disease, and certain genetic conditions can increase the risk of complications. Each year there are over 100 million surgical procedures that use anesthesia. Of those only about 25 percent of the practices provide data to the National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry. In a study of surgeries and procedures from 2010 to 2013 the overall death rate stayed constant at about 3 per 10,000. However, when looking at adverse events related directly to anesthesia the numbers fell from 11.8 percent to 4.8 percent. This is an improvement and is thanks to years of hard work.
That is not to say anesthesia is risk free yet. Determining what sedative to use and how much to put someone under is needed, can still be an inexact science. There are some positive signs but we are still seeing cases of people who die while undergoing routine and essentially harmless procedures like an 8 year girl who died in 2007 at dentist while undergoing a routine check-up and teeth cleaning.
If you have been injured or a loved one has died due to anesthesia or a medical mistake in Virginia, call our Virginia medical malpractice attorneys. Each case’s merit is based on its own facts and we cannot guarantee a result, but our lawyers have proven results. I was a member of a legal team that successfully obtained a $46 million verdict for a client who suffered a brain injury. Call Cooper Hurley at 757.455.0077.