Of the many risk factors involved with undergoing surgery is the chance of an anesthesia error. While anesthesia is common and administered in a variety of procedures to numb or sedate the patient, it could come at a grave cost. Many assume that most anesthesia errors occur during the preoperative stage only, however, this is just one of the many unknowns surrounding anesthesia errors.
Causes of Anesthesia Errors
Just like any other medication, there are numerous ways anesthesia drugs can affect patients. While it is possible for the drug itself to cause injury or death to a patient, more times than not errors occur due to the negligence of medical professionals. Some of the common causes of anesthesia errors include but are not limited to the following:
- Administering the wrong anesthesia drug
- Giving an overdose of one or more anesthesia drugs
- Providing too little of one or more anesthesia drugs leading to anesthesia awareness, or where the patient is aware of and feels the entire surgery
- Dispersing anesthesia drugs to a patient with known allergies
- Using defective or dirty medical devices and equipment during the administration of anesthesia drugs
- Delaying delivery of anesthesia drugs
- Failure to properly administer oxygen during surgery
- Failing to properly monitor the patient under anesthesia
- Not preventing anesthesia interactions with prescription medication drugs
- Not properly instructing patients prior to anesthesia
- Failure to follow up with appropriate post-surgical care
Given the sensitivity of the nature of anesthesia drugs, it is absolutely crucial that the anesthesiologist administering the medications does so in a safe way that is in line with safety standards and duty of care responsibilities. An anesthesiologist’s job only just begins during preoperative medication administration. During the duration of the surgery – as well as post-operatively – it is critical that the anesthesiologist properly monitor and assess the patient’s heart rate and rhythm, vital functions, breathing, body temperature, fluid, and blood pressure. These levels indicate a patient’s level of distress, if any, and allow medical professionals to react quickly.
Common Anesthesia Error Injuries
When one or more of the above happens, the consequences for a patient can be dire. Minor complications resulting from anesthesia errors typically resolve themselves. Minor anesthesia complications can include but are not limited to dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Unfortunately, many anesthesia errors are major and inflict way more than simple discomfort. When significant negligence occurs at the hands of an anesthesiologist, a patient could suffer from adverse effects of the error for the rest of their lives.
Anesthesia errors can lead to a victim suffering a heart attack or stroke, which can not only be fatal but can also cause major complications later on if the patient recovers. This means a patient will have to undergo medical treatments, regular checkups, and may even have to make restricting life changes as a result of the medical error.
Anesthesia errors can also inflict serious spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries unfortunately commonly occur when anesthesia is not administered and/or monitored correctly. Errors with the administration of anesthesia can cause a patient to lose blood and fluids that could result in a loss of blood flow to the brain, causing brain damage that may be irreversible.
Spinal cord injuries can occur when epidural or spinal anesthesia is administered incorrectly. Epidurals and spinal anesthesia are shots given either into or around the spine. The sensitivity of the spine makes puncturing the area dangerous, to begin with, but adding in powerful medications can cause catastrophic damage. The spinal cord can become infected, which can lead to abscesses or meningitis, either or both of which can be fatal. Additional spinal cord injuries can be a result of bleeding around the spinal column, nerve damage resulting in paralysis, and even seizures if severe.
What to do if You Suspect Anesthesia Errors
If a patient experiences one or more of the above injuries after surgery, it can be the result of an anesthesia error. It is vital that the patient is seen right away, diagnosed, and treated. Any physician or hospital staff member that fails to do so can be liable for medical malpractice. Reporting a concern to a doctor or appropriate agency can help, but it can also cause the responsible health care provider to “cover their tracks.” With the help of an experienced medical negligence attorney, a patient who has suffered injuries as the result of an anesthesia error can collect evidence, file an anesthesiology malpractice claim, and receive financial compensation.
Philadelphia Anesthesia Errors Lawyers
Undergoing any type of procedure or surgery can be stressful for patients and their loved ones. With so much to worry about already, the last thing a patient and their loved ones should have to fear is anesthesia administered incorrectly causing further injury or death. Patients trust all medical professionals involved in their procedures or surgeries as well as their recovery will act in their best interest by following all safety protocols. When anesthesiologists and medical professional act negligently and their wrongdoing results in injury or death, patients and their families may be entitled to compensation. If you or a loved one believes an anesthesia error occurred during your surgery or procedure, contact the Philadelphia anesthesia errors lawyers at Lopez McHugh, LLP immediately for a free and confidential consultation.