Errors in Anesthesia

Anesthesia is an inherently risky part of any surgery and requires an anesthesiologist to administer and monitor the effect on the patient. Before any medical procedure requiring anesthesia, this specialist will review the patient’s medical record. They are also required to review the patient history, prior medications, allergies, and time requirements of the operation to determine the best combination of drugs to use.

There is some level of risk involved with any procedure requiring anesthesia. Although errors can be caused by several factors, negligence is often the cause. At times when a medical professional fails to provide a proper standard of care, the doctor or anesthesiologist can be held accountable for any resulting injuries.

Anesthesia malpractice can happen either during the pre-operation medical review or during the procedure itself. If the anesthesiologist fails to properly review all the patient’s medical records, he or she may administer drugs to which the patient is allergic, causing injury or death.

An anesthetic contraindication may also be present. This is defined as a patient having been on medications that negatively interact with the anesthetic used during surgery.  If it is used, this type of anesthesia malpractice may lead to the patient’s death.

Patients are reassured that their care has been entrusted to anesthesiologists who have taken proper precautions to prevent these types of errors. When these professionals misadvise a patient, do not properly administer anesthesia, or provide follow-up care, then injured patients have the legal right to hold the at-fault party accountable. The following describes the most common anesthesia errors that result from medical negligence:

  • Anesthesia dosage error
  • Delayed delivery of anesthesia
  • Patient monitoring failures
  • Dangerously prolonged sedation
  • Failure to recognize and respond to anesthesia complications
  • Failure to properly inform a patient of instructions before, during, or after the procedure
  • Faulty equipment
  • Shutting off the alarm on the pulse oximeter
  • Failure to intubate

The consequences of an anesthesia error will rely on the type of medical mistake made and the subsequent response from the medical team. The most common injuries caused by anesthesia mistakes include heart attack or stroke, spinal cord injuries,  asphyxia, damage to the trachea, brain damage, coma, and death.

Anesthesia awareness is a situation where the patient is not administered the proper dose of anesthesia. This can cause serious trauma to the patient as regulating a patient's consciousness during a procedure is of utmost importance. 

Anesthesia awareness can be a horrifying experience, with the patient possibly unable to speak but aware of their surroundings. In some cases, they may even feel pain from the surgery. Anesthesia awareness can cause serious emotional problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Types of Anesthesia and Possible Complications:

Local Anesthesia: When properly dosed, local anesthesia is safe and causes few side effects. Larger doses, however, can cause trauma when the body absorbs it through the bloodstream. Systemic toxicity (too much anesthesia) can impact breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, and other system functions. Since there is always a possibility for these anesthesia complications to occur, emergency care equipment should be on location wherever anesthetics are used.

Regional Anesthesia: This is administered by injection near a nerve or bunch of nerves or the spinal cord. Sometimes a nerve may be damaged, causing unrelenting loss of feeling, weakness, or feeling very sore. As with any anesthesia, regional anesthesia also brings with it the potential for system toxicity. Other complications may include pulmonary problems and infection.

General Anesthesia: This type of anesthesia slows the body’s natural throat functioning including swallowing, gagging, or coughing. Aspiration (when food or liquid becomes stuck in the respiratory tract) is another danger during general anesthesia. To avoid aspiration, an endotracheal tube may be inserted creating respiratory troubles such as muscle spasms in the larynx (laryngospasm) and bronchial tubes (bronchospasm). It could also trigger an increase in blood pressure (hypertension) and heart rate (tachycardia). Additional complications may include damage to the mouth, and voice box, a sore throat, and hoarseness. 

Even more serious side effects could result from general anesthesia such as fluctuations in blood pressure or heart rate, stroke, or heart attack. Severe illness injury or death caused by anesthesia is extremely rare and typically has something to do with errors in the surgical procedure. 

If you or a loved one has suffered due to anesthesiology errors, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm specialize in medical malpractice law and will fight for you or your loved one if you’ve been the victim of an anesthesia error. There is no cost or obligation for us to evaluate your case. The Sweeney Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. There is never a fee unless a recovery is made for you.