What Happens if Anesthesia Goes Wrong?

Anaesthesia is a cornerstone of modern medicine, but the exact mechanisms by which it works are still not fully understood even now, 150 years after its first modern demonstration. While anaesthesia is often presented as a safe, if somewhat risky procedure, there are many known risk factors that can lead to complications for patients who receive it. When anaesthesia goes wrong, victims can suffer severe trauma, lasting injury, and even death.

Knowing what happens when anaesthesia fails is vital to making an informed decision about “going under.” This knowledge could also help you get compensation if you become a victim of medical malpractice.

Anaesthesia Risk Factors

Many people are able to go under anesthesia and emerge from it without any harm. However, anaesthesia comes with many risks, especially for people with the following conditions:

  • Heart, kidney, or lung problems
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Drug allergies


Those currently on blood-thinner medical regimens or who have had a poor reaction to past anaesthetics are also vulnerable to the risks of anaesthesia. Smokers also face a heightened risk, as well as those who are old. The type of disease or procedure a person needs anaesthesia for can also make the procedure more risky.

The Dangers of Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia has many risks. Find out what dangers you could face before going under.

Waking Up

Waking up from anaesthesia is a common fear, but for some people, it becomes a horrifying reality. Victims can feel intense pain from an ongoing surgery and fear, and may have no way of communicating this as it is occurring.

It’s estimated that 1 in 20 people undergoing anesthesia wake up during surgery. Many do not remember the experience, but perhaps 1 in 19,000 suffer from unintended intraoperative awareness, during which they are awake for their surgery. They are haunted by ongoing trauma as triggering events cause them to recall their experience.

Side Effects

Anaesthesia can cause a number of temporary side effects, including the following:



For most people, these side effects clear shortly after they emerge from anaesthesia. However, many people report terrifying experiences from postoperative delirium immediately after they emerge from anaesthesia.

Cognitive Problems

Some people suffer from long-term cognitive problems after undergoing anesthesia. Temporary memory loss and confusion can actually be permanent, with some people struggling for years to regain their full faculties after undergoing anesthesia.


In rare cases, a person can die after going under anaesthesia. It is currently estimated that the risk of death for health individuals from anaesthesia is 1 out of 100,000. Some procedures carry a higher risk of death from anaesthesia. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are also more liekly to die from the procedure.

What Causes Anesthesia to Go Wrong?

The common causes for cases where someone suffers injury or death from anaesthesia due to medical malpractice is negligence.

An anaesthesiologist may fail to inform the patient of the risks associated with anaesthesia. They might fail to check a patient for allergies and to ensure they won’t experience an adverse reaction with other medications they’re taking. They may also deliver the wrong amount of anaesthesia, fail to properly monitor the patient, or improperly position them during the procedure.

When anaesthesia goes wrong, the effects can last a lifetime. If you’ve experienced problems from anaesthesia, a medical malpractice lawyer might be looking into your case after you contact them. It’s important to secure legal representation to pursue compensation if you haven’t already. Doing so now could make the difference between a lifetime of financial hardship and security for yourself and your loved ones.

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