Pharmacologically Induced Comas

Each day, about 60,000 people in the US will be put into a pharmacologically induced coma. This is done so patients may safely undergo surgery. A pharmacologically induced coma can be defined as a coma induced medically by general anesthesia, which includes the loss of protective reflexes from the administration of general anesthetic drugs. General anesthesia may be given to a patient in a variety of forms, with the overall goal of relaxing the skeletal muscles and achieving a loss of control in autonomic nervous system reflexes, in addition to providing hypnosis, amnesia and analgesia, or the inability to feel pain.

The Risk of General Anesthesia- It is up to anesthesiologists, their assistants, or nurse anesthetists to choose the best combination of pharmaceutical drugs to be administered in general anesthesia. This is typically done after consulting with the patient and their doctor, or the surgeon performing the operation.

Although undergoing a pharmacologically induced coma is considered a routine procedure in surgical operations, it still involves some inherent risk. The mortality rate directly related to anesthesia is estimated at one out of every 250,000.

Going to Sleep vs. Pharmacological Coma- Some doctors like to use the term “going to sleep” to describe putting patients into a pharmacological coma. Though this saying is a people friendly way to describe general anesthesia, it is not accurate, according to the latest scientific reports. A new study finds that pharmacologically induced comas are very different from normal states of sleep. Only the deepest states of sleep that people experience can be compared to the very lightest stages of anesthesia that induces a pharmacological coma. Sleeping normally involves movement through different stages, while patients who undergo general anesthesia are usually taken to a specific phase or state and kept there during surgery.

Though general anesthesia is a drug-induced coma, it is also reversible. Once the surgeon has completed their work and the patient is ready to be ‘woken up,’ brain activity will follow a predictable pattern when it starts to return. Initially, respiration starts back up, which signals the return of the back of the brain stem. Then, brain activity moves forward bit by bit, as autonomic functions come back online, and thus returns salivation, tearing, and gagging. Finally, awareness is restored. 

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to general anesthesiology errors, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm specialize in medical malpractice law and will fight for you or your loved one if you’ve been the victim of anesthesia error. There is no cost or obligation for us to evaluate your case. The Sweeney Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. There is never a fee unless a recovery is made for you.