Litigation related to inadequate anaesthesia: an analysis of claims against the NHS in England 1995-2007

R Mihai, S Scott, T M Cook
Anaesthesia 2009, 64 (8): 829-35
Inadequate anaesthesia may cause distress to the patient and lead to medical litigation. All claims made to the NHS Litigation Authority 1995-2007 were obtained and the data was examined independently by all authors and classified. In a dataset of 1067 claims there were 161 cases of inadequate anaesthesia and data were suitable for analysis in 159: intra-operative awareness (79), brief awake paralysis (20) and inadequate regional anaesthesia (60). The total cost of closed claims was pound 3.2 m. Cost was incurred in 100% of claims of brief awake paralysis, 87% of claims of awareness and 80% of claims of inadequate regional blockade. Mean cost of closed claims was pound 32,680 for anaesthetic awareness, pound 29,345 for inadequate regional blockade and pound 24,364 for brief awake paralysis. Inadequate anaesthesia accounts for 19% of anaesthesia-related claims in the NHS in England. Strategies that reduce anaesthetic awareness, drug errors and inadequate regional blockade are known and their improved implementation is likely to reduce such claims.

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