Surgical Error

Signs of Brain Damage After a Surgery

July 11, 2023 by James McHugh, Jr.
brain damage after surgery

Every day, people across the state of Pennsylvania undergo various surgeries, including knee replacement, bypasses, and colonoscopies – the list is endless. However, there is always a risk that someone undergoing surgery can awake with temporary or permanent brain damage due to issues in the procedures used to conduct the surgery.

If you or a loved one shows signs of brain damage after surgery, contact Lopez McHugh to discuss your situation and learn more about your legal rights. Those suffering from brain damage post-surgery may be entitled to financial compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

What is Postoperative Brain Damage?

Brain damage is caused by any interruption in the flow of blood to the brain or a traumatic injury to the brain’s soft tissue. During surgical operations, a patient’s brain is often at risk of having its flow of oxygen disrupted for a period of time. When deprived of oxygen for too long, the billions of individual cells that compose and support the brain’s structure begin to die and hinder the brain’s overall function.

In many instances, a loss of oxygen for mere minutes can have a lasting and harmful impact on the health of a patient’s brain and the rest of their body. Postoperative brain damage can be caused by a number of complications, as discussed below.

Symptoms of Postoperative Brain Damage

A number of symptoms can arise during and immediately after surgery, indicating that a person is suffering from postoperative brain damage. These symptoms can include:

  • Temporary or permanent memory loss
  • Difficulty problem-solving simple and complex issues
  • Loss of a critical sense like sight, sound, or feeling
  • Muscle weakness or an inability to feel pain
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Unresponsiveness once the surgery is complete
  • Inability to breathe without assistance from a respirator or ventilator
  • Falling into a coma
  • Total brain death

Causes of Postoperative Brain Damage

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 40 to 50 million surgeries are performed in the United States annually. This provides ample opportunity for all sorts of postoperative-related issues, including brain damage. As stated above, postoperative brain damage is typically caused by a disruption of oxygen flow during a surgical procedure. The disruption can occur at the beginning of the operation when the patient is being anesthetized, during the operation, or during the initial recovery phase post-surgery.

Anesthesia-Related Brain Injury

Brain injury can be caused by a medical error occurring in the use of anesthesia during a surgical procedure. Anesthesia is the use of a drug or combination of drugs to sedate a person for a specific medical procedure. Anesthesia can be administered locally, generally, or via a combination of the two. The purpose is to sedate a person for a period of time so that a medical professional can perform a medical procedure, including surgery.

Anesthesia can cause brain injury by being administered incorrectly during the procedure. No one combination of medications or measurement of those medications fits every person for every procedure. Thus, the professional administering the cocktail of drugs must evaluate the person’s needs. This can lead to complications, including adverse effects on a patient’s nervous system or a loss of oxygen flow to the brain.

According to a study published by the Anesthesia Quality Institute’s National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry (NACOR), the total number of non-operating room anesthesia cases rose seven percent across a span of four years. During that time period, anesthesia was used approximately 12.4 million times in operating room procedures, and 5.9 million times during procedures not occurring in an operating room. This shows a staggering increase in anesthesia usage outside of the operating room and the significant potential for medical malpractice issues.

Disruption of Oxygen

A common way a person suffers brain damage after a surgery is by negligently removing a breathing apparatus. A breathing apparatus like a ventilator is often used during more extended and more invasive surgeries. The ventilator is a device that delivers a constant flow of oxygen to a patient’s lungs. The ventilator includes long tubes inserted into the patient’s esophagus to provide oxygen directly into the patient’s respiratory system.

Because some procedures hinder a person’s ability to breathe during an operation, the ventilator is vital in keeping the patient alive. Disruption of oxygen or removal of the ventilator tubes at the wrong time can result in loss of oxygen, causing brain damage or death.

Failure to Monitor Patient Vitals

Another common cause of postoperative brain damage is a failure to monitor a patient’s health status during and after a surgical procedure. Often, patients suffer numerous side effects from medication used during a surgical procedure. Further, an operation can negatively impact preexisting health problems that affect a patient’s heart, respiratory, and circulatory systems. Thus, failing to effectively monitor a patient’s vitals during and after surgery can lead to complications that impact the patient’s brain.

Treating Postoperative Brain Damage

Unlike other organs, once a patient’s brain has been sufficiently damaged, it cannot be fully repaired or replaced. Thus, patients and their loved ones must understand the difficult road ahead after postoperative brain damage.

Because all postoperative brain damage cases are different, it can be challenging to provide a detailed list of treatment options related to any one case. Nonetheless, those suffering from postoperative brain damage can expect some of the following treatment options:

  • Prescription medication to increase blood pressure in the brain.
  • Use of a ventilator to increase blood-oxygen levels.
  • Physical, occupational, and psychological therapy to address specific deficits in motor function caused by brain damage.

Unfortunately, some cases may result in the patient being rendered into a vegetative state. This medical care for someone in this condition may include 24-hour hospice care, the permanent use of a ventilator, the use of a feeding tube, and the use of anti-seizure and other medications.

Contact Us for Help with a Brain Damage Claim Today

If a surgical operation has left you or a loved one with temporary or permanent brain damage or signs of possible brain damage, you and / or they may be entitled to financial compensation. The surgical error lawyers of Lopez McHugh have the experience and skills needed to address numerous types of post-surgical medical issues, including brain damage. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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