Background: Anesthesia gas delivery equipment is a potentially important source of patient injury. To better define the contribution of gas delivery equipment to professional liability in anesthesia, the authors conducted an in-depth analysis of cases from the database of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project.
Methods: The database of the Closed Claims Project is composed of closed US malpractice claims that have been collected in a standardized manner. All claims resulting from the use of gas delivery equipment were reviewed for recurrent patterns of injury.
Results: Gas delivery equipment was associated with 72 (2%) of 3,791 claims in the database. Death and permanent brain damage accounted for almost all adverse outcomes (n = 55, 76%). Equipment misuse was defined as fault or human error associated with the preparation, maintenance, or deployment of a medical device. Equipment failure was defined as unexpected malfunction of a medical device, despite routine maintenance and previous uneventful use. Misuse of equipment (n = 54, 75%) was three times more common than equipment failure (n = 17, 24%). Misconnects and disconnects of the breathing circuit made the largest contribution to injury (n = 25, 35%). Reviewers judged that 38 of 72 claims (53%) could have been prevented by pulse oximetry, capnography, or a combination of these two monitors. Overall, 56 of 72 gas delivery claims (78%) were deemed preventable with the use or better use of monitors. The year of occurrence for claims involving gas delivery equipment ranged from 1962 to 1991 and did not differ significantly from claims involving other adverse respiratory events.
Conclusions: Claims associated with gas delivery equipment are infrequent but severe and continue to occur in the 1990s. Educational and preventive strategies that focus on equipment misuse and breathing circuit configuration may have the greatest potential for enhancing the safety of anesthesia gas delivery equipment.