Learning from the law. A review of 21 years of litigation for nerve injury following central neuraxial blockade in obstetrics.

Abstract

Medicolegal claims for neurological injury following the use of central neuraxial blockade in childbirth represent the second most common claim against obstetric anaesthetists. We present an analysis of 55 cases from a database of 368 obstetric anaesthetic claims. Common themes that emerge from the analysis include: consent; nature of nerve injury (non-anaesthetic; direct; chemical; compressive); recognition; and management. Specific advice arising from these cases includes: the importance of informing patients of the risks of nerve damage; keeping below the conus of the cord for intrathecal procedures; responding appropriately if a patient complains of paraesthesia; and having a high index of suspicion if recovery of normal neurological function is delayed. As ever, principles of good practice, including respect for patient autonomy, early provision of information, good communication and a high standard of record-keeping, will minimise the frustration of patients that can then lead them to seek a legal route to redress if they suffer an injury following central neuraxial blockade.

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