Risk of Compartment Syndrome During Surgery

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Compartment syndrome is an emergency that can occur during surgery when pressure builds up in an enclosed space of tissue, eventually cutting off blood flow to that area and leading to tissue necrosis. This increased intracompartmental pressure must be reduced quickly through surgical intervention, also known as fasciotomy.


Compartment syndrome most commonly occurs in the anterior compartment of the leg and the limbs in general, but it can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the abdomen. It most often arises after trauma and resulting bone fractures but may also be caused by soft tissue injury, burns, crush injury, overdoses, infection, bleeding disorders, and more. Compartment syndrome can also occur during surgery due to a variety of etiologies (Torlincasi et al., 2023).


Some procedure-related factors that can increase risk of compartment syndrome include duration of surgery, type of surgery, type of anesthesia, and patient positioning. For example, prolonged surgeries can lead to increased external pressure and immobility for patients (Halvachizadeh et al., 2019). Some anesthetic agents can cause hypotension and decreased perfusion pressures. Long-acting regional anesthesia may mask the signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome (Garner et al., 2014). Surgical techniques that require use of tourniquets or increased fluid administration may also increase compartment syndrome risk (Halvachizdeh et al., 2019). Excessive fluid administration can lead to tissue edema and increased intracompartmental pressures.


There are patient risk factors that can also increase the likelihood of compartment syndrome during surgery. For example, patients with conditions such as coagulopathies, diabetes, or peripheral vascular disease may have impaired microcirculation (Papachristos & Giannoudis, 2019). The entire surgical team must pay careful attention to any patient specific conditions that can make them more prone to developing compartment syndrome.


Early diagnosis and treatment of compartment syndrome can prevent irreversible damage to the patient. Preoperative assessment should identify patients at higher risk of compartment syndrome and facilitate planning to mitigate these risk factors. Intraoperative measures include careful patient positioning to avoid prolonged pressure on extremities and limited use of tourniquets (Halvachizdeh et al., 2017). The surgical team should also avoid excessive fluid administration and use careful dissection techniques to minimize tissue trauma. Postoperative monitoring is essential to regularly assess the limb compartments. Some symptoms include severe pain, skin changes, decreased pulses, decreased two-point discrimination, and affected motor function. Measuring intracompartmental pressures of the affected body part can also help diagnose compartment syndrome, and an intracompartmental pressure greater than 30 mmHg will require prompt intervention (Torlincask et al., 2023).


Ultimately, compartment syndrome is a very serious condition that requires high levels of suspicion in patients and procedures with increased risk factors, early detection in the perioperative setting, and rapid treatment. While compartment syndrome is primarily associated with trauma and certain types of injuries, it is important to recognize that it can occur in the surgical environment as well. Ongoing education is essential to ensuring optimal patient safety and health outcomes.




Garner MR, Taylor SA, Gausden E, Lyden JP. Compartment syndrome: diagnosis, management, and unique concerns in the twenty-first century. HSS J. 2014;10(2):143-152. doi:10.1007/s11420-014-9386-8


Halvachizadeh S, Jensen KO, Pape HC. Compartment Syndrome Due to Patient Positioning. 2019 Sep 3. In: Mauffrey C, Hak DJ, Martin III MP, editors. Compartment Syndrome: A Guide to Diagnosis and Management [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2019. Chapter 12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553906/ doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-22331-1_12


Papachristos IV, Giannoudis PV. Unusual Presentation of Compartment Syndrome. 2019 Sep 3. In: Mauffrey C, Hak DJ, Martin III MP, editors. Compartment Syndrome: A Guide to Diagnosis and Management [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2019. Chapter 15. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553896/ doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-22331-1_15


Torlincasi AM, Lopez RA, Waseem M. Acute Compartment Syndrome. [Updated 2023 Jan 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448124/




Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems

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In the complex and high-stakes environment of medical operations, the safety and efficacy of anesthesia play a pivotal role in patient outcomes. Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems (AIRS) are crucial in fostering a culture of safety and continuous improvement in anesthesia practice. These systems provide a framework for healthcare professionals to report and analyze any anesthesia-related incidents or near misses, allowing for systematic improvements in patient care. 

Understanding Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems 

Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems are specialized programs designed to collect, manage, and analyze data regarding adverse events or potential risks associated with anesthesia administration. They are part of a broader approach to medical quality assurance, focusing specifically on the unique challenges and risks found in anesthetic practice. By gathering detailed reports on incidents from a wide range of healthcare settings, AIRS help identify patterns or systemic issues that might not be evident from isolated cases. 

The Importance of Reporting in Anesthesia 

The primary goal of AIRS is to enhance patient safety. The anesthesia domain is particularly suited to this kind of analysis because even minor errors can lead to significant patient harm. Reporting incidents provides invaluable insights that can drive policy changes, inform training programs, and influence the development of new guidelines or procedures to prevent recurrence of similar events. 

AIRS operate under the principle that most medical errors are the result of underlying systemic issues rather than individual negligence. This approach encourages healthcare providers to participate without fear of retribution. Anonymity and confidentiality are key features of effective AIRS, ensuring that medical staff feel secure in reporting incidents. This openness leads to a more comprehensive dataset, making the system more effective at identifying and addressing potential improvements. 

Components of Effective Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems 

Effective AIRS include several key components: ease of use, confidentiality, analytical capability, and feedback mechanisms. The system must be easily accessible and user-friendly to encourage regular use by healthcare providers. Confidentiality is essential to protect both patients and staff, encouraging reporting and ensuring that the focus remains on learning and improvement. 

The analytical capabilities of AIRS are crucial. Advanced data analysis tools can sift through large volumes of data to identify trends, correlations, and potential causes of incidents. This analysis is the backbone of the learning that AIRS provides, guiding the development of interventions that prevent future incidents. 

Finally, feedback mechanisms are vital. When healthcare providers see that their input leads to real changes, they are more likely to engage with the system consistently. Feedback reinforces the system’s value, encouraging ongoing participation and promoting a culture of safety. 

Challenges and Future Directions 

Despite their benefits, AIRS face several challenges. One major challenge is ensuring comprehensive participation across all levels of anesthesia care. In some settings, particularly where resources are limited, the implementation of sophisticated reporting systems can be financially and logistically difficult. 

Moreover, there is the challenge of integrating AIRS data with other medical reporting systems. As healthcare becomes increasingly digitized, interoperability between different data systems becomes essential. Effective integration can enhance the depth and utility of the insights gained from AIRS, leading to broader improvements in patient safety. 

The future of AIRS likely involves enhanced digital integration, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data more effectively and predict potential incidents before they occur. These technologies can transform data into actionable insights, providing real-time support to anesthetists and potentially revolutionizing anesthesia safety practices. 


Anesthesia Incident Reporting Systems are vital tools to improve anesthesia safety and patient care. By providing a structured way to report, analyze, and learn from anesthesia-related incidents, AIRS contributes to a deeper understanding of the factors that lead to errors and the strategies that can prevent them. As these systems continue to evolve, their integration with broader healthcare technologies and practices promises even greater advances in patient safety and care quality. With the commitment of healthcare providers and institutions to this reporting and learning culture, the future of anesthesia safety looks robust and promising. 

Regional Anesthesia in Patients on Antithrombotic Drugs

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Antithrombotic drugs, such as antiplatelet agents (APA) and anticoagulant therapies, are commonly prescribed for patients with cardiovascular disorders to prevent thrombosis, or blood clots. However, patients on antithrombotic medications are at increased risk of excessive blood loss during and after surgery with regional anesthesia.1,2

Platelets, or thrombocytes, are small cellular components in blood whose function is the formation of blood clots to stop bleeding after injury. Internal signaling pathways in an activated platelet signal the release of molecules such as adenosine diphosphate (ADP), adrenaline, serotonin, thrombin, and thromboxane A2. Platelet glycoproteins then bind to fibrinogen, resulting in platelet aggregation and thrombus formation.1 Acetylsalicylic acid, a commonly prescribed APA, inhibits thromboxane A2 production for the entire lifetime of a singular platelet (7–10 days). Ticagrelor is an APA that blocks critical G-protein activation and associated signaling pathways, while dipyridamole blocks the uptake of adenosine.1 On the other hand, anticoagulant therapy prevents clot formation by disrupting the coagulation cascade. Most anticoagulants will either prevent the formation of coagulation factors such as factor IIa or inhibit the production of fibrin.1,3

In late 2021, experts from the European Society of Anaethesiology and Intensive Care (ESAIC) and the European Society of Regional Anesthesia (ESRA) convened to discuss the extant literature on the prevention of excessive blood loss following regional anesthesia in patients on antithrombotic drugs.2 After careful analysis, the committee recommended waiting at least 24 hours between the last intake of anticoagulant therapy and anesthesia administration. For antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin, ticagrelor, clopidogrel, and prasugrel, the recommendation is a pre-operative waiting period of 3-7 days. 2,4 Additionally, when combinations of antithrombotic drugs are used, the therapy-free time before anesthesia should be equivalent to that of the drug with the longest waiting period. Risk factors to consider include specific bleeding risks such as inherited bleeding disorders, acquired bleeding disorders, a history of significant bleeding, renal failure, hepatic failure, advanced age, female sex, and extreme body weight. An individual risk-benefit analysis must always be made, ideally in conjunction with the patient. Experts also found several reviews which suggest delaying the next antithrombotic drug dose for at least 48 to 72 hours after surgical intervention to prevent postoperative bleeding complications. Although the general recommendation is withdrawal of antithrombotic therapy some time before and after anesthetic administration, in situations where the risk of thromboembolism or ischemia is high, the anesthesiologist may decide to proceed without withdrawal.2

Healthcare teams must maintain their vigilance in the perioperative period to detect and manage excessive bleeding when the patient is undergoing anesthesia. During and after surgery, the team should look for persistent pain at the site of anesthesia, a drop in hemoglobin level, morphological skin changes, cardiovascular instabilities, or any neurologic deficits, as any of these symptoms should raise suspicion of a hemorrhagic complication due to regional anesthesia.2

In the future, more clinical trials may provide clearer and more standardized recommendations on the use of regional anesthesia in patients on antithrombotic therapy.




  1. Mega, Jessica L., and Tabassome Simon. “Pharmacology of Antithrombotic Drugs: An Assessment of Oral Antiplatelet and Anticoagulant Treatments.” The Lancet, vol. 386, no. 9990, July 2015, pp. 281–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60243-4
  1. Kietaibl, Sibylle, et al. “Regional Anaesthesia in Patients on Antithrombotic Drugs: Joint ESAIC/ESRA Guidelines.” European Journal of Anaesthesiology, vol. 39, no. 2, Feb. 2022, pp. 100–32. https://doi.org/10.1097/EJA.0000000000001600
  2. Jiang, L., et al. “A Critical Role of Thrombin/PAR-1 in ADP-Induced Platelet Secretion and the Second Wave of Aggregation.” Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, vol. 11, no. 5, May 2013, pp. 930–40. https://doi.org/10.1111/jth.12168
  3. Douketis, James D., et al. “Perioperative Management of Antithrombotic Therapy: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th Ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Chest, vol. 141, no. 2, Supplement, Feb. 2012, pp. e326S-e350S. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.11-2298

Situational Awareness in Anesthesia Care

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Defined as the ability to perceive, understand, and project the elements of the environment, the concept of situational awareness is vital in the dynamic field of anesthesia. This capability allows anesthesiologists to make swift, accurate decisions in settings where conditions may change abruptly (1). Anesthesiologists must continuously monitor and interpret a broad spectrum of physiological data, anticipating potential complications. Recognizing subtle changes in blood pressure or heart rate and understanding their implications for immediate and future health outcomes are common applications of situational awareness in anesthesia care.


The three levels of situational awareness—perception, comprehension, and projection—offer a framework for practitioners to structure their interactions within the environment (2). Perception involves noticing critical signs and signals in the operating room, such as changes in the patient’s vital signs or medical alarms. At the comprehension level, anesthesiologists interpret these signals based on their medical knowledge and the specific context of the patient’s condition. Projection then involves anticipating future changes in the patient’s status based on current data and trends, enabling proactive management in anesthesia care (1).


Training in situational awareness has become a core component of education for anesthesia professionals. Simulation-based training strengthens anesthesiologists’ abilities to manage complex scenarios in a controlled environment. These simulations enhance their skills across all three levels, preparing them for real-life situations (3). Additionally, recent studies highlight the significant role of non-technical skills, such as teamwork and communication, in influencing situational awareness in clinical settings (4). Tools like the Situation Awareness Global Assessment Technique (SAGAT) enable objective evaluation of this skill by freezing simulations at various points and querying participants about their awareness of the scenario’s elements (2). While direct measures are informative, their complexity makes them challenging to implement in the high-pressure environment of the operating room. Thus, indirect measures, such as evaluating decision-making and outcomes, are commonly used to infer situational awareness levels during actual procedures (1).


Technological advancements have also led to the development of sophisticated monitoring systems designed to enhance awareness. These systems integrate multiple streams of physiological data and present them in more interpretable ways, reducing cognitive load during demanding surgical procedures (4). However, effective implementation of situational awareness concepts in anesthesia care still faces challenges due to individual capabilities, training variations, and the limitations of human attention under stress. Continued research and development are essential to address these challenges, optimize training methods, and improve technological supports (1).


Situational awareness is foundational for safe and effective anesthesia care. It encompasses the ability to perceive, understand, and anticipate developments in a dynamic clinical environment. Ensuring that anesthesiologists have the necessary training, tools, and support to maintain optimal levels of situational awareness is vital for patient safety and the overall effectiveness of medical care.




  1. Schulz CM, Endsley MR, Kochs EF, Gelb AW, Wagner KJ. Situation awareness in anesthesia: concept and research. Anesthesiology. 2013;118(3):729-742. doi:10.1097/ALN.0b013e318280a40f
  2. Endsley MR. Toward a theory of situation awareness in dynamic systems. Human Factors. 1995;37(1):32-64.
  3. Gaba DM, Howard SK, Small SD. Situation awareness in anesthesiology. Hum Factors. 1995;37(1):20-31. doi:10.1518/001872095779049435
  4. Fletcher GC, McGeorge P, Flin RH, Glavin RJ, Maran NJ. The role of non-technical skills in anaesthesia: a review of current literature. Br J Anaesth. 2002;88(3):418-429. doi:10.1093/bja/88.3.418



Concerns About Monopolies in Anesthesia

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Monopolies in healthcare are a growing topic of discussion, especially within sectors like pharmaceutical companies or insurance providers. In the last year, the United States Justice Department has filed multiple antitrust lawsuits against healthcare entities (Wallace, 2024). Recently, concerns about monopolies anesthesia services have grown (Whoriskey, 2023) 

Anesthesia plays a crucial role in healthcare by ensuring patient comfort and safety during medical procedures and by managing substance use and pain. However, some have expressed concerns that the provision of anesthesia services has increasingly fallen under the control of large corporate entities such as U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Inc. (USAP) (Wallace, 2024). These entities typically emerge from a series of mergers and acquisitions. USAP, for instance, originated from a large private equity firm, initiating its operations by first acquiring the largest anesthesiology group in Denver (Whoriskey, 2023). It is also now the largest provider of anesthesia services in Texas (“FTC Challenges Private Equity Firm’s Scheme to Suppress Competition in Anesthesiology Practices across Texas”, 2023).   

A primary concern associated with monopolies in anesthesia—and in any industry—is the potential for diminished competition and increased pricing. When one entity dominates the market, it wields significant pricing power, which can result in increased healthcare costs for patients. For instance, USAP raised prices for some services by almost 30% during its inaugural year (Whoriskey, 2023). This escalation can further impede access to care, prompt physicians to depart from a practice, and exacerbate existing healthcare disparities. Moreover, physicians leaving monopolistic practices may face substantial financial penalties and geographic restrictions on practicing due to non-competes (Whoriskey, 2023). Notably, the Federal Trade Commission sued USAP and its founding firm in 2023, alleging a multi-year, multi-part plan to consolidate the anesthesiology market in Texas (“FTC Challenges Private Equity Firm’s Scheme to Suppress Competition in Anesthesiology Practices across Texas”, 2023). USAP rates with major insurance companies notably surpass industry averages (Whoriskey, 2023). 

Another concern revolves around potential compromises in patient care. Some argue that when a single entity monopolizes the anesthesia services of a region, it may prioritize profit over patient outcomes (La Forgia et al., 2022). It is imperative to have diverse and experienced anesthesia providers who are committed to innovation while prioritizing patient welfare to continue improving the quality of healthcare (Whoriskey, 2023). 

Concerns about monopolies in anesthesia, as illustrated by the USAP controversy, reflect broader concerns about healthcare costs and quality of care. Calls for enhanced transparency, oversight, and regulation within the anesthesia industry have amplified, with stakeholders advocating for measures to promote fair competition, safeguard patient interests, and ensure the delivery of quality care. Continued scrutiny of powerful healthcare systems and insurance companies is also necessary. By fostering competition, enhancing transparency, and prioritizing patient care, the healthcare industry can progress towards a more equitable and sustainable future.  



  1. “FTC Challenges Private Equity Firm’s Scheme to Suppress Competition in Anesthesiology Practices across Texas.” Federal Trade Commission, Federal Trade Commission, 21 Sept. 2023, www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/09/ftc-challenges-private-equity-firms-scheme-suppress-competition-anesthesiology-practices-across. 
  2. La Forgia, Ambar et al. “Association of Physician Management Companies and Private Equity Investment With Commercial Health Care Prices Paid to Anesthesia Practitioners.” JAMA internal medicine vol. 182,4 (2022): 396-404. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.0004
  3. Wallace, Claire. “Doubling down on Healthcare Monopolies: 4 Cases to Know.” Becker’s ASC Review, Becker’s Healthcare, 5 Mar. 2024, www.beckersasc.com/asc-news/doubling-down-on-healthcare-monopolies-4-cases-to-know.html. 
  4. Whoriskey, Peter. “Financiers Bought up Anesthesia Practices, Then Raised Prices.” The Washington Post, 29 June 2023, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/06/29/private-equity-medical-practices-raise-prices/.