A recent Study reports that the overall rate of U.S. women who die as a result of anesthesia during childbirth has fallen sharply in the last few decades. However, fatality rates for regional anesthesia, compared to general anesthesia, have increased slightly, according to Reuters News
Researchers stress that deaths during childbirth related to anesthesia remain rare. Regional anesthesia was tied to 3.8 deaths per million childbirths between 1997 and 2002. This marked a slight increase compared the period from 1991 to 1996 where there were 2.5 deaths per million childbirths using regional anesthesia.
While the death rate for general anesthesia has dropped, it is still more likely to be lethal than regional anesthesia. The lead researcher for this study, Dr. Joy Hawkins, suspects that the medical community was focusing all of its resources on reducing the mortality rate for the riskier general anesthesia procedures. The result of this focusing of resources may have lead to less study on the risks of regional anesthesia.
Hawkins explained that discovering the cause for deaths related to regional anesthesia is difficult partly because they are so rare. But she did say that based on malpractice claims, a number of recent deaths were related to a lack of emergency resuscitation equipment in emergency rooms. According to Hawkins, having this resuscitation equipment available may make a difference in mortality rates for general anesthesia patients.
Source: Reuters News Childbirth deaths from spinal anesthesia rising Amy Norton, December 24, 2010