Common Anesthesia Errors
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Rachael K. Jones with Tilton & Tilton LLP.
Anesthesia is used in many medical procedures to dull or eliminate the sensation of pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be local to the site of the operation, or it may be used to put the patient under entirely. The medical professionals responsible for administering anesthesia are called anesthesiologists, and they play an extremely important role in the procedure. Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring the patient’s vitals before, during, and after anesthesia, to make sure any adverse reactions can be addressed immediately. It is also the anesthesiologist’s job to decide how much anesthesia to give a patient; not enough anesthesia could result in the patient waking or feeling pain during the surgery, whereas too much could inhibit the patient’s vital functions. When anesthesia errors occur, the consequences can be traumatic and long-lasting.
While unfortunate outcomes after a medical procedure are certainly not always the result of malpractice, anesthesia errors are cause for concern. Whether an anesthesiologist or assisting medical staff makes a mistake out of intention, negligence, or by accident, if another anesthesiologist with the same training in the same position would not have made the same mistake, it could be medical malpractice. Patients and their families who suffer from anesthesia errors may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation for damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Some of the most common anesthesia errors include:
- Failing to properly inform the patient: Anesthesiologists are required to make sure their patients understand the procedure, purpose, and use of anesthesia, as well as what to expect before, during, and after the anesthesia has been administered.
- Dosage errors: Too much or too little anesthesia could result in serious trauma, injury, and even death for the patient. These errors may occur when an anesthesiologist fails to account for the type or length of operation, other medications, and/or patient medical history.
- Delayed dosage: Waiting too long to administer anesthesia could make it ineffective, especially in emergency procedures where time is of the essence. In this scenario, the patient may have to undergo surgery without being fully under, potentially resulting in long-term trauma and unnecessary pain and suffering.
- Failing to check patient records: Some patients may be allergic to certain anesthesia drugs or have other medical conditions that require special attention from an anesthesiologist. Failing to check a patient’s record and account for these factors could result in serious injury or even death for the patient.
- Keeping the patient under too long: It is not safe for a patient to stay fully under anesthesia for too long. Staying under anesthesia for too long can result in postoperative dangers including heart attack, stroke, and even pneumonia.
- Failing to intubate: Intubation is a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the patient’s trachea, allowing them to breathe and for the anesthesiologists to administer medicine in the event of a complication. Intubation is not strictly required for every procedure, but it is considered an important precaution.
- Failing to monitor: Failure to monitor the patient may occur both during and after the procedure. It is the anesthesiologist’s job along with assisting medical staff to keep a close eye on the patient’s vital functions during surgery. Turning off or failing to pay attention to monitoring equipment may result in a patient suffering a severe anesthesia injury.
- Failing to monitor post-surgery: Some patients may have serious adverse effects or complications due to the anesthesia after surgery. These reactions may not show up until the patient is in a post-care unit; however, medical staff is still required to monitor the patient.
Anesthesia errors should always be taken seriously. Consequences from this type of medical malpractice can range from unnecessary pain and suffering to further injury, trauma, and even death. If you suspect that you or a loved one suffered due to an anesthesia error, reach out to a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case. These attorneys typically offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t have to pay for their services unless and until they win your case. This allows injured patients and their families to focus on healing and recovery while an experienced medical malpractice professional investigates and litigates for recovery on your behalf.
To learn more about anesthesia errors, or for help filing a claim, reach out to a medical malpractice attorney in your area.