The Devastating Consequences of Anesthesia Errors

Modern technology has improved surgical anesthesia and made it safer; however, mistakes can still happen. When anesthesia Anesthesia Paperwork Surrounded by Medicationerrors do occur, they can have devastating consequences that can include permanent injury or death.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result of an anesthesia error, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim to pursue compensation for damages. However, because not all medical mistakes constitute malpractice, it's important to understand anesthesia errors and their effects, so you can weigh your legal options.

Types of Anesthesia

Physicians have used various forms of anesthetic to prevent patients from feeling pain during surgical procedures for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Modern medicine uses three main types of anesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia. This type numbs a small, specific part of the body (such as for biopsy or mole removal procedures).

  • Regional anesthesia. This type anesthetizes an area of the body. Spinal blocks and epidurals are two of the most common regional anesthetics.

  • General anesthesia. This type renders the patient completely unconscious and unable to feel pain.

Anesthesia is usually administered by a medical professional who is specially trained to anesthetize and monitor surgical patients. However, anesthesia errors can be made by a nurse, doctor, or other staff members who are part of the patient’s medical team. If there's a breakdown in communication between the members of that medical team, or if the medical professional is negligent, serious anesthesia errors can occur.

Anesthesia Errors

While anesthesia errors are often thought of as mistakes that can happen during surgery, these errors can actually occur before, during, and even after a surgical procedure. Examples of preoperative anesthesia errors include:

  • Failing to review the patient's medical history for possible complications

  • Failing to inform the patient of risks associated with the surgical procedure

  • Failing to provide preoperative instructions (such as telling the patient not to eat for a certain number of hours prior to surgery)

Anesthesia-related errors that can occur during surgery include:

  • Delaying anesthetization

  • Administering too much or too little anesthesia

  • Giving the wrong type of anesthesia for the procedure

  • Improperly inserting the intubation tube (which helps patients breathe during sedated surgeries)

  • Improperly monitoring or administering surgical oxygen

  • Failing to monitor the patient's vital signs

  • Using faulty equipment

  • Failing to recognize or respond to developing complications

  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during surgery

Errors that can occur after surgery include:

  • Leaving an anesthetized patient unattended

  • Leaving a patient sedated for too long

  • Failing to provide essential post-operative instructions

Possible Complications and Injuries

Anesthesia errors can cause a wide range of injuries and complications. Some are temporary and relatively minor; others can be seriously debilitating or permanent. These complications and injuries can include:

  • Increased post-operative pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Confusion or delirium

  • Intubation injuries (such as a sore throat or damage to the teeth or larynx due to improper placement of the tube)

  • Severe allergic reaction (known as anaphylaxis)

  • Anesthesia awareness (regaining consciousness during surgery)

  • Respiratory problems, including pneumonia

  • Nerve damage

  • Brain damage

  • Blood clots

  • Stroke

  • Heart attack

  • Death

Even when medical professionals are well trained, careful, and exercise good judgment, mistakes can sometimes happen. For an anesthesia error to be considered malpractice, a patient has to prove that the medical professional failed to provide a reasonable standard of care or behaved negligently, and that the resulting complication or injury caused serious harm. A knowledgeable legal team can hire an experienced medical expert to help build your case.

If You Were Injured by an Anesthesia Error

If you injured by an anesthesia error that you suspect was medical malpractice, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Inland Empire Law Group can help. Living with the effects of an anesthesia error can be devastating, particularly if your injury renders you unable to work. We're ready to help you recover any compensation you may deserve. Contact our office today for a free initial consultation of your case.