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Complications of Spinal Anaesthesia

Complications of Spinal Anaesthesia

All types of anaesthetic have their own set of potential complications, including spinal anaesthesia.

Spinal anaesthesia

Spinal anaesthesia is when a numbing agent is injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This will prevent sensation and movement below the waist. The patient may be completely conscious or sedated.

Occasionally a spinal anaesthetic will be given alongside a general anaesthetic. Normally this only happens if the spinal anaesthetic does not work properly or the surgery is more complication than expected.

A spinal anaesthesia is typically used for operations below the waist, such as hernia repair, orthopaedic surgery or genital surgery. Medical practitioners may choose to use a spinal anaesthetic rather than a general anaesthetic if it is safer for a patient.

Spinal anaesthesia can also be administered as pain relief after a surgical procedure.

Is spinal anaesthesia the same as epidural anaesthesia?

Spinal anaesthesia is almost the same thing as an epidural. The difference is that a spinal anaesthetic involves one injection close to the nerves. An epidural involves a tube being left inside the epidural space, meaning doctors can 'top-up' the anaesthetic as and when required.

Spinal anaesthesia complications

All anaesthetic is associated with possible side effects and complications, and spinal anaesthesia is no different. A patient should be advised of all the risks before consenting to the procedure. If medical practitioners fail to provide this advice, a patient will not have given their 'informed consent'.

The side effects and complications of spinal anaesthesia include:

  • Difficultly passing urine, which is normally temporary
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Backache
  • Headaches, with severe headaches being caused by CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leak
  • Itching
  • Infection and abscesses
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased respiratory rate with inadequate breathing
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clot in the spinal column
  • Convulsions
  • Cardiac arrest

Some of these complications can result in very serious consequences. For example, nerve damage can result in long-term neurological dysfunction. Low blood pressure can cause loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest. Decreased respiratory rate can lead to oxygen deficiency and multi-system organ failure.

Compensation for spinal anaesthetic complications

Sometimes a patient will develop complications as a result of spinal anaesthesia, for which no one is to blame. However, doctors must do their utmost to monitor a patient during the procedure and respond to any problems that arise. As long as this standard of care is achieved, there will not be a case of negligence.

But if medical practitioners fail to spot that a patient is suffering complications and therefore do not act, the standard of care will be deemed unacceptable. Furthermore if the actions of medical practitioners cause a complication such as a non-sterile environment resulting in an infection there may be grounds for a claim.

For more information on claiming compensation for spinal anaesthesia complications, please contact us today.

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