Some procedures performed by anesthesiologists in New Mexico require placement of a unilateral nerve block for surgeries that involve a right or left side. In this situation, there is a potential for needle placement and surgery at the wrong location. Protocols that use checklists to prevent errors, also known as timeouts, limit these errors. However, no standard approach to nerve block procedures has been established by the anesthesiologist community.

The director of the North American Institute for Continuing Education said that every institution has a safety regimen to follow but that each place uses its own version. Standards that are consistently applied across the anesthesia profession have not been developed. Local practices determine the nature of the safety procedures.

Nerve blocks performed on the wrong side of a patient’s body by the anesthesiologist could lead a surgeon to follow the mistake and operate on the wrong side, the director added. Although any type of protocol could limit mistakes, he said errors most often result when health care workers actually forget to use a safety checklist because they are busy.

A person who experiences an operating room error might face additional medical costs and unanticipated time away from work because of complications. Someone who feels that they may be a victim of medical malpractice could discuss their case with an attorney. Malpractice cases face high burdens of proof to demonstrate negligence and liability. An attorney might gain testimony from medical experts to build the case for the person and file paperwork with a court. Compensation sought by such a lawsuit could cover extra medical bills, disability costs, lost income and pain and suffering. An attorney could represent the person during a trial and manage negotiations for a settlement if the defendant accepts liability.