When administered properly, anesthesia relieves pain during surgery and makes it possible for the patient to undergo the procedure. But anesthesia mistakes frequently happen, and they can prove severe or even fatal. Patients who have experienced an anesthesia error may be uncertain whether they have recourse for what happened. The medical malpractice attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy can advise you or a loved one of the legal options available when these mistakes are made.
Types Of Anesthesia
Different procedures require different types of anesthesia. You may have one of the following administered:
- Local anesthesia. Relatively simple procedures only require that the area undergoing surgery is anesthetized. This is typically done by way of an injection.
- Regional anesthesia. This is similar to local anesthesia in that a particular area of the body is numbed. The difference is that regional anesthesia blocks a set of nerves so the numbed area is larger. The two types of regional anesthesia are spinal (for a variety of lower body procedures) and epidural (to control birth pains).
- General anesthesia. This is used to put a person to sleep during complex procedures. It is often administered by a breathing mask or intravenously, and renders the patient unconscious and immobile. Among the different types of anesthesia, it carries a higher risk of complications.
- Conscious sedation. A patient who is having a broken bone set may be given a conscious sedation. The patient remains awake but is more relaxed and less aware of the procedure.
Common Anesthesia Errors
A mistake involving anesthesia may be quickly reversed, or it could be permanent and life-altering. In some cases, the mistake may cause death. Some of the most common mistakes include:
- Failure to account for the patient’s medical history. The patient’s age, weight, medical history, allergies, and other health indicators are all critical factors in determining how much and what type of anesthesia should be administered. These mistakes can happen for a number of reasons, including something as simple as mixing up the patient’s records.
- Failure to give instructions before surgery. Anesthesia often requires that the patient avoid food or alcohol for a certain amount of time prior to administering. There are typically detailed instructions that must be followed to avoid complications, and the patient should be aware of the risks if they don’t follow those instructions.
- Improper dosage or type of anesthesia. Anesthesia is a powerful drug, and too much or too little can have drastic consequences. An overdose may be fatal or cause brain damage or cardiac arrest. But not having enough can cause the patient to wake up or experience pain during surgery while being unable to move or talk. Another error is administering the wrong type of anesthesia required by the procedure.
- Failure to monitor the patient. A patient’s heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure must be monitored during sedation. Failure to do so could cause severe complications.
Injuries Caused By an Anesthesia Error
Each type of anesthesia has its own risks. When a mistake is made, the patient can suffer a variety of mistakes, often in combination with another one. They include:
- Pain and suffering, including postoperative pain
- Allergic reaction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory problems
- Nerve injury
- Stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems
- Blood clots
- Brain damage due to lack of oxygen
- Birth defects
Proving Malpractice With an Anesthesia Error
Healthcare providers can and do make mistakes. An error does not necessarily mean that the provider was acting negligently, even if the error causes serious injury or death. Anesthesiologists, along with all healthcare professionals, endure rigorous and extensive training. Their jobs are complex and require a high degree of diligence. If the anesthesiologist is careful and attentive in their duties, it is difficult to show that a mistake was the result of negligence.
Nonetheless, there are certain missteps that are unacceptable. To prove medical malpractice, the mistake has to be unreasonable in light of the circumstances. Not checking the patient’s medical history is a major red flag. So is failure to monitor the patient. These are basic requirements for any medical procedure involving anesthesia, so failing to abide by them is strongly indicative of medical malpractice.
The role of your attorney, first and foremost, is to learn the facts about what happened in your case. That requires an extensive investigation, understanding what to look for, and knowing how to find it. Discovery is an important tool that your attorney can use to obtain this information. But as with every other aspect of litigation, there are procedural and other requirements that go along with it.
Your attorney will also need to quantify, as accurately as possible, the damages you sustained (and will sustain) due to the error. These injuries can have permanent and irreversible consequences for the patient and often result in significant medical bills. You may miss work because of the necessary time to recover. Or you could permanently lose the ability to work at the same level as before the error was made.
Tragically, in all too many cases, the patient dies because of the anesthesia error. All potential damages, including those that may arise in the future, need to be reasonably determined. Only then can you, and the jury, know the value of your case.
Contact Our Philadelphia Anesthesia Error Attorney Today
Most victims of medical malpractice have only two years to file their claim before it is time-barred. It’s a good idea to take legal action much sooner because it is easier to obtain records and witness statements closer in time to the incident.
Anesthesiologists and hospitals are well-represented by legal counsel, and they have the deep pockets necessary to defend themselves. That’s why it’s critical to have the knowledgeable and experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy on your side. Call us today to get started on your case.