Anesthesia is a great achievement in modern society; however, it does carry some risks. Trained medical professionals must administer anesthesia with precision, care, and skill. Anesthesiologists are specialists trained to work with surgeons to monitor the patient throughout surgery. Even with modern technology, anesthesia administration can be dangerous.
Anesthesia errors, for example, using the wrong amount or the wrong type of anesthesia during a procedure, can have tragic consequences for the patients and their families. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to anesthesia malpractice, you may be entitled to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice claims due to anesthesia errors are complicated. You will need help from an attorney. The medical malpractice attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have represented many clients who have suffered injuries as a result of anesthesia errors and are able to guide you through this complicated process.
What Is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is meant to keep you comfortable without pain during a medical procedure, surgery, or test. Anesthesia can block the pain sensations throughout the body. There are several types of anesthesia, including:
- General: The patient is unconscious throughout the entire surgery. This type of anesthesia is used for major operations, such as an open-heart procedure, back surgery or a knee or hip replacement.
- Local: This anesthesia is only applied to a small portion of the body, and you will stay alert and awake during the process. Mole removal or taking out stitches are some of the procedures that use this type of anesthesia.
- Regional: Anesthesia is given to a specific area of the patient. This type is administered during childbirth or procedures to the arm, leg, or abdomen. It will numb that part of the body, but you will stay be awake.
- IV/Monitored Sedation: This type of anesthesia is used for minimally invasive procedures like a colonoscopy. Your conscious state can range from wide awake to deep sleep.
Anesthesia is commonly used in many medical facilities, but it is not without risks. Mistakes can be made during or after the administration, and these mistakes may be the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible parties.
How Do Anesthesia Complications Occur?
Improper administration of anesthetic drugs, inadequate monitoring, improperly positioned patients, and failure to adjust the anesthesia levels are examples of anesthesia malpractice that can cause irreparable brain damage and other injuries.
The role of the anesthesiologist is vital, and it starts before the operation. From the patient’s admittance to a medical facility until his or her release, an anesthesiologist is responsible for preventing any side effects or complications from anesthesia. During the pre-anesthesia care stage, the specialist will evaluate the patient, confirm the preoperative data, and make notes of the operation plans. The anesthesiologist must have clear communication with the surgeon, nurses, and the patient. Failure to perform these preoperative assessments can lead to devastating injuries, side effects, and complications due to the improper administration of the anesthetic drug during the procedure.
Before the operation, the patient needs to be appropriately positioned with the right padding to reduce any risk of injuries during the surgery. An improperly positioned patient can result in neurological injuries or paralysis. The intravenous lines must also be correctly placed. While in surgery, several pieces of equipment will monitor the patient, including an oximetry monitor, electrocardiogram (ECG), and an automatic blood pressure cuff to check vital signs. The anesthesia team must adequately configure the monitoring equipment and verify that it is functioning properly.
General anesthesia also requires the procedure of inserting a tube, called an endotracheal tube, into the patient’s trachea. If the intubation process was performed negligently, it could cause respiratory distress to the patient, injury to the trachea, or other complications. Even the improper tourniquet placement can cause permanent damage to the nerves in the arm. All these injuries can be the result of negligence on the part of the anesthesiologist.
The primary duty of the anesthesiologist during the operation is to manage and deliver all the various medicines, oxygen, and other fluids to the patient, as well as to monitor the patient’s vital signs, blood loss and urine output. The improper administration of liquids, gases, or drugs or insufficient monitoring of the patient can cause a lack of oxygen to the brain, resulting in a stroke, brain damage, coma, or death.
Finally, the anesthesiologist is also responsible for gathering and documenting all the information that pertains to the procedure. The anesthesiologist must keep a record of the information in a neat and precise manner. These records should include charts for vital signs, drugs, and fluids. An anesthesiologist should also note other medical parameters with the specifics of the events and times during the operation. These medical records should have a list of all the staff and doctors present for the procedure, including the nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and their assistants. These records will be valuable to your case to help locate a witness to the improper medical treatments during the operation.
Common Causes of Anesthesia Medical Malpractice
An anesthesiologist has a medical duty to take the necessary steps to prevent complications during the administration of anesthesia to the patient. During this process, the anesthesiologist must follow the profession’s standard of care. However, even with advances in medicine, there can be human error. Many anesthesia complications are preventable. They often occur because, as discussed above, the patient wasn’t properly evaluated or monitored before, during, or after the procedure.
In some cases, the patient can have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. This complication can happen when the anesthesiologist doesn’t adequately evaluate the patient’s medical history to determine if he or she is allergic to certain drugs. Sometimes, a patient may not have a history of a drug allergy but may suffer a severe reaction after the drug is administered. If the anesthesia team is not properly monitoring the situation, they can fail to respond to the patient’s distress.
Types of Injuries Suffered in Anesthesia Medical Malpractice
Due to the negligence of the medical staff, the patient can suffer several injuries. Some of the most common injuries are not severe and only include vomiting, pain, nausea, mental confusion, or a sore throat. These issues can be due to incorrect drug levels or improper insertion of a breathing tube.
In some cases, the patient can suffer severe injuries due to improperly administered anesthesia or a failure to monitor the vital signs. Some of these injuries can include:
- Serious allergic reaction
- Brain damage
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Larynx damage
- Tooth damage
- Anesthesia awareness
Some anesthesia injuries result in the death of the patient. These fatal cases account for 26 percent of malpractice claims. Nerve injuries and permanent brain damage also make up a large portion of malpractice lawsuits. More than 65 percent of anesthesia claims are due to incorrect administration before the operation or procedure.
Proving an Anesthesiologist’s Negligence
An anesthesiologist’s failure to take the proper steps before, during or after a procedure is medical negligence and can cause unnecessary harm to a patient.
Negligence means that the doctor did something wrong or did not exercise reasonable care. With medical malpractice cases, this means that the medical provider failed to provide a certain level of care with the skills of the average provider in his or her specialty, taking into consideration the resources available to the provider and the advances in the profession.
Proving that an anesthesiologist was negligent requires your legal team to conduct an investigation. The attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer will obtain and review the relevant medical records, then hire an expert anesthesiologist to evaluate the pre-surgical risk factors during the anesthesia process, study the anesthesiologist’s notes, and determine what happened in the operating room. The expert will also take into consideration the rate of complications for that type of anesthesia during the procedure.
In some cases, you can hold the medical facility or the hospital liable for the negligence of its staff. These cases are based on two legal theories:
- Vicarious liability: This type of liability happens when a hospital or medical facility employs the anesthesiologist or holds out the provider as one of its employees, leading the patient to reasonably believe that the hospital employs the anesthesiologist. The facility will be liable for any negligence committed by these healthcare providers.
- Negligent hiring and supervision: In some cases, the hospital can be held directly liable for its negligence in hiring or supervising the anesthesiologist.
What to Do After Anesthesia Injuries?
When you go in for an operation or other procedure, you put your trust in the anesthesiologist to prevent any complications and safeguard your vital functions. For many procedures, anesthesia is administered without any incidents. However, anesthesiology malpractice can occur, and it can lead to life-changing results.
Injuries due to improper anesthesia administration can lead to emotional, physical, or financial hardship for the patient and their families. If you have experienced severe injury due to an anesthesia error or malpractice claim, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can include:
- Current and future medical bills
- Long-term disability
- Loss of companionship
- Current and future loss of wages
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or death as a result of an anesthesia error, you want to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have for decades evaluated anesthesia malpractice claims. With help from our legal team, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries due to the negligence of the anesthesia staff.
If you or a loved one has been critically injured do to someone else’s negligence, please click here to fill out the contact form, or call 1-800-535-1797 and someone from our team will be ready to help.
For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.