Despite the fact that the anesthesia profession led the way in medical error reduction techniques, there are still too many anesthesia deaths and serious injuries. When anesthesia malpractice occurs, the results are often catastrophic. With general anesthesia, the patient is helpless. Serious anesthesia errors can deprive the brain of oxygen, causing irreversible damage within minutes or result in other severe respiratory harm – for example, lung damage due to aspiration. Some errors that continue to cause death in anesthesia include: (1) misplacement of the endotracheal tube into the esophagus instead of the trachea (oxygen does not get to the lungs, and thus not to the heart or brain); (2) aspiration of noxious contents into the lungs (causing lung swelling and possible failure); (3) inadequate monitoring of oxygen saturation level of the blood (if a problem arises, the results may be fatal or irreversible damage before corrective action can be taken); (4) administration of excessive amounts of anesthesia (potentially causing cardiac arrest or other problems); (5) failure to have personnel adequately trained with proper treatment agents, to deal with an emergency if one occurs. Each of the causes just listed can be prevented if proper techniques, monitoring, and training are employed.
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