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What causes hypoxia during anesthesia, and whose fault is it?

If you or someone you love is going to have surgery, then one of the things your medical provider may talk to you about is anesthesia. Anesthesia helps you sleep during a surgery. It essentially sedates patients, and depending on the type of anesthesia, may render them immobile or unconscious.

The problem with anesthesia is that it is a precise science. Giving too much of the medications could result in serious injuries to a patient. Not giving enough could mean that they wake up or feel the operation. Mixing the wrong medications could be deadly or lead to anaphylaxis in an allergic patient.

Hypoxia is a significant risk during anesthesia

Hypoxia is one risk to talk to your medical provider about before going under. Hypoxia occurs when the brain and body don’t get enough oxygen. A patient with hypoxia during anesthesia will show signs like mild hypertension or tachycardia as the body works harder to bring in more oxygen.

What causes hypoxia during surgery?

The normal causes of hypoxia could be anything from an allergy to one of the anesthetic medications to being premediated with narcotics or having trouble breathing from a prone position due to sleep apnea. Usually, patients are intubated prior to sedation to make sure that the anesthesiologist has access to the patient’s airways and control over oxygen levels throughout the procedure.

General anesthesia does paralyze the patient, so the muscles of the diaphragm may not be able to move until the drugs are reversed. Without the correct intubation, the patient may not be able to breathe on their own at all, which could lead to hypoxia if there is any problem with the intubation.

Being too heavily sedated and not monitored closely can also lead to hypoxia. For this reason, the anesthesiologist remains in the operating room throughout the procedure. They must make adjustments as time passes, so that the patient stays healthy throughout the surgery.

Failing to keep track of a patient’s oxygen levels or not recognizing the signs of hypoxia could lead to brain damage, coma or death. If that happens, then the patient or their family may have a claim for malpractice.