The Patient Injury Act has been in effect in Finland since 1 May 1987. This legislation is a no-fault compensation scheme and implies that if a patient during the course of medical treatment suffers any injury as a result of that treatment he or she may file a claim to the Patient Insurance Association (PIA). From 1 May 1987 to 31 December 1993, 23,500 claims for compensation were made.
All claims made to PIA involving spinal and epidural anaesthesias during the above period were collected and reviewed and a data base was prepared. The total number of anaesthetics given during this period was estimated by sending questionnaires to every hospital in the country.
Eighty-six claims were associated with spinal and/or epidural anaesthesia. Respectively, the total the number of spinal and epidural anaesthesias administered was 550,000 and 170,000. There were 25 serious complications associated with spinal anaesthesia: cardiac arrests (2), paraplegia (5), permanent cauda equina syndrome (1), peroneal nerve paresis (6), neurological deficits (7), and bacterial infections (4). The 9 serious complications which were associated with epidural anaesthesia were: paraparesis (1), permanent cauda equina syndrome (1), peroneal nerve paresis (1), neurological deficit (1), bacterial infections (2), acute toxic reactions related to the anaesthetic solution (2), and overdose of epidural opioid (1).
According to this material the incidence of serious complications was 0.45:10,000 following spinal and 0.52:10,000 following epidural anaesthesia. Atraumatic technique, careful patient selection and early diagnosis and treatment of complications are essential in avoiding permanent injury.