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Anesthesiology. 2004 Jul;101(1):143-52.

Injuries associated with regional anesthesia in the 1980s and 1990s: a closed claims analysis.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA.



The authors used the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project database to identify specific patterns of injury and legal liability associated with regional anesthesia. Because obstetrics represents a unique subset of patients, claims with neuraxial blockade were divided into obstetric and nonobstetric groups for comparison.


The American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Project is a structured evaluation of adverse anesthetic outcomes collected from closed anesthesia malpractice insurance claims of professional liability companies. An in-depth analysis of 1980-1999 regional anesthesia claims was performed with a subset comparison between obstetric and nonobstetric neuraxial anesthesia claims.


Of the total 1,005 regional anesthesia claims, neuraxial blockade was used in 368 obstetric claims and 453 of 637 nonobstetric claims (71%). Damaging events in 51% of obstetric and 41% of nonobstetric neuraxial anesthesia claims were block related. Obstetrics had a higher proportion of neuraxial anesthesia claims with temporary and low-severity injuries (71%) compared with the nonobstetric group (38%; P <or=0.01) and a lower proportion of claims with death or brain damage and permanent nerve injury compared with the nonobstetric group (P <or= 0.01). Cardiac arrest associated with neuraxial block was the primary damaging event in 32% of obstetric and 38% of nonobstetric neuraxial anesthesia claims involving death or brain damage. Eye blocks accounted for 5% of regional anesthesia claims.


Obstetric claims were predominately associated with minor injuries. Permanent injury from eye blocks increased in the 1990s. Neuraxial cardiac arrest and neuraxial hematomas associated with coagulopathy remain sources of high-severity injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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