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Can you overdose on anesthesia?

On Behalf of | Apr 27, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Local anesthesia generally just deadens sensations in a specific area. For instance, it will be used when having a mole removed.

But general anesthesia is much more complicated. When a patient is “put under”, they’ll have no sensations at all. Their brain won’t even store memories of the event. To them, it feels like they just wake up a second later, but they may have been under for hours during a surgical procedure.

The right amount of anesthesia is known as Stage Three. This is when muscles relax, breathing slows down, eye movement ceases and the patient appears to be in a state of sleep. In that state – there are rare exceptions – patients cannot feel the procedure and the anesthesiologist will try to keep the patient at Stage Three until that procedure has concluded.

Stage Four is an overdose

Unfortunately, if someone is given too much anesthesia, they then reach Stage Four. This can lead to serious cardiovascular and respiratory issues, as those systems collapse. The brainstem is suppressed. Essentially, the same medication that prohibits pain goes too far, slowing down the body’s processes to a point where they can no longer sustain life. This type of overdose can be fatal.

As a result, one of the main jobs that an anesthesiologist has is simply to monitor the patient. They need to keep them in Stage Three the entire time. They can monitor things like their heart rate or their breathing. This prevents an overdose and it also prevents the patient from waking up too early. There’s a balancing act here.

But if the anesthesiologist makes a mistake, someone could suffer serious complications or even pass away. In a situation like that, family members may need to know what legal options they have.