Trends in Anesthesia-related Death and Brain Damage: A Closed Claims Analysis


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Abstract

Background:The authors used the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project database to determine changes in the proportion of claims for death or permanent brain damage over a 26-yr period and to identify factors associated with the observed changes.Methods:The Closed Claims Project is a structured evaluation of adverse outcomes from 6,894 closed anesthesia malpractice claims. Trends in the proportion of claims for death or permanent brain damage between 1975 and 2000 were analyzed.Results:Claims for death or brain damage decreased between 1975 and 2000 (odds ratio, 0.95 per year; 95% confidence interval, 0.94–0.96; P < 0.01). The overall downward trend did not seem to be affected by the use of pulse oximetry and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitoring, which began in 1986. The use of these monitors increased from 6% in 1985 to 70% in 1989, and thereafter varied from 63% to 83% through the year 2000. During 1986–2000, respiratory damaging events decreased while cardiovascular damaging events increased, so that by 1992, respiratory and cardiovascular damaging events occurred in approximately the same proportion (28%), a trend that continued through 2000.Conclusion:The significant decrease in the proportion of claims for death or permanent brain damage from 1975 through 2000 seems to be unrelated to a marked increase in the proportion of claims where pulse oximetry and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitoring were used. After the introduction and use of these monitors, there was a significant reduction in the proportion of respiratory and an increase in the proportion of cardiovascular damaging events responsible for death or permanent brain damage.

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