Anaesthetic awareness is one of the most frightening ordeals a patient can endure. The intense pain experienced from waking up during a surgical procedure can result in crippling psychological disturbances—including PTSD.
If you suspect that an incident of anaesthetic awareness was due to negligence or lack of proper medical care by an anaesthetist, you may be able to obtain compensation for your pain and suffering.
At Devonshires Claims’ our medical negligence solicitors can support you in making a No Win No Fee compensation claim for anaesthetic awareness due to medical negligence. For more information or to start your free case evaluation contact our ‘No Win No Fee’ medical negligence solicitors today on 0333 900 8787, email email@example.com or complete our online form.
What is Anaesthetic Awareness?
During some surgical procedures, medical practitioners typically administer general anaesthetic and paralysing muscle relaxants to keep a patient in a controlled and monitored state of unconsciousness. But in rare circumstances, the patient may wake up during the operation. In some cases, this may even happen during surgical incision and suturing.
This condition of unintended awareness is what is referred to as anaesthetic awareness. The administered anaesthetic wears off while the muscle relaxants render the patient unable to alert the doctors. Many patients report intense pain, psychological trauma and distress.
According to the NAP5 (Fifth National Audit Project) report by the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), around 1 in every 19,000 surgery patients in the UK experiences anaesthetic awareness.
Causes of Anaesthetic Awareness
Anaesthetic awareness is generally caused by the failure to administer the right dose of an anaesthetic to keep a patient safely unconscious for the duration of an operation or treatment. This may occur due to several reasons, including:
- Faulty equipment and malfunctions during drug delivery.
- Miscalculations by the anesthesiologist, whereby he/she misjudges the optimal dose.
- The use of an inappropriate or faulty anaesthetic technique. This includes delays in drug delivery.
- Failure to appropriately monitor and detect changes in the patient’s state of consciousness during surgery.
It is also worth noting that people respond differently to anaesthetics – i.e., some are more responsive than others. This means that the appropriate amount of anaesthetic may differ from one patient to another.
It is therefore the surgical team’s responsibility to conduct a preoperative assessment. This includes:
- Ensuring all drug delivery and monitoring equipment are working correctly.
- Proper training of personnel.
- Obtaining a patient’s medical history to identify any risk factors that could influence the body’s reaction to anaesthesia. This includes substance abuse, use of medications, and respiratory problems, among other risk factors.
- Using monitoring devices to measure the depth of consciousness during surgery.
- Making sure the right drugs are administered promptly using the most appropriate techniques.
- Having a plan to be vigilant and ready to appropriately deal with incidents of anaesthetic awareness.
Failure to take the necessary steps to protect patients from the enormously distressing experience may be regarded as negligent behaviour by the surgical team.
What Are the Effects of Anaesthetic Awareness?
Enduring the pain of surgery and being unable to move can have serious long-term effects on the patient. Some of the effects of anaesthetic awareness include:
- Fear of surgery or anaesthesia
- Flashbacks of the traumatic experience
- Disturbed sleep, including nightmares and insomnia
- Panic disorder
- A feeling of helplessness
- Depression – to the extent of suicidal thoughts in some cases
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Difficulty concentrating
Patients who experience anaesthetic awareness and its adverse psychological effects may be able to claim compensation.
How Do Patients Know If They Have Been Awake During Surgery?
Patients may recall anaesthetic awareness immediately after the operation or several days later. Some report hearing what was going on (including conversations) but not feeling any pain—while others describe the excruciating experience of feeling the pain and being unable to react.
Since patients may experience anaesthetic awareness to different degrees, the anesthesiologist and surgical team use a method known as the ‘Brice Interview’ to diagnose a possible awareness incident. The interview includes 5 questions that should be asked shortly after the operation and within 14 days after the procedure. They include:
- What was the last thing you remember before you went to sleep?
- What was the first thing you remembered happening on waking?
- Did you dream or have any other experiences while you were asleep?
- What was the worst thing about your operation?
- What was the next worst thing?
Measures After a Case of Anaesthesia Awareness
If a case of anaesthetic awareness is diagnosed, certain measures must be taken to help safeguard the patient’s health. Proper care and support must be provided to help victims in their recovery journey from the psychological effects of the experience.
These measures include:
- Gathering as much information about the experience as possible. This includes both the patient’s report and the surgical team’s data.
- The anesthesiologist must offer explanations to the patient about what happened and the reasons why.
- All parties involved must be informed.
- An apology to the victim should be provided.
- Post-surgical visits should be arranged to monitor the patient.
- Admission to a psychiatrist if symptoms of mental health disorders are observed.
Making Anaesthesia Awareness Compensation Claims
Everyone has a right to proper medical care. If this right is infringed due to avoidable mistakes and negligence by the medical team, you could have the grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.
Patients who believe substandard care was to blame for their incident of anaesthetic awareness should contact experienced medical negligence solicitors on how to make an anaesthetic awareness compensation claim.
Devonshires Claims supports victims of medical negligence obtain justice and compensation for the harm that they have sustained. If you or a loved one experienced anaesthetic awareness you may be entitled to claim compensation.
We offer our clients:
- A friendly, compassionate and professional claims service
- A free case evaluation
- No Win No Fee agreement
- Access to a network of medical experts and specialist barristers
- Our expertise in dealing with a variety of medical negligence claims including very complex medical cases
- Our expertise in securing the maximum compensation available
For more information on Devonshires Claims ‘No Win No Fee’ agreements, including anaesthetic awareness claims contact us today on 0333 900 8787, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our online form.