A surgical or other invasive procedure typically requires that the targeted area is sufficiently numbed or the patient is placed into an unconscious state through the administration of general anesthesia. The medical professional who often is responsible for this is an anesthesiologist. In addition to determining the necessary dose and administering it properly, he or she also must monitor the patient for signs of distress or other negative reactions. If the anesthesiologist makes a mistake, the patient can suffer from serious long-term or permanent injuries. Many patients have died because of errors relating to anesthesia.
When an Anesthesiologist Commits Malpractice
There are three types of anesthetic that may be administered:
- Local – This is administered topically or through an injection and only numbs a small area in which the healthcare provider is going to work. If the injection is not done properly, it can lead to serious nerve damage;
- Regional – Anesthetic that is administered via injection and only affects a specific area of the body, such as an epidural given to a woman in labor; and
- General – This anesthesia may be administered by an intravenous line, tube, or mask and renders the patient unconscious.
There are many things that may go wrong after the administration of anesthesia. One of the responsibilities of the anesthesiologist is to monitor the patient for signs of problems during the procedure – this is especially true if a general anesthetic is being administered. However, there also are problems that may arise after the patient has gone through the operation or other procedure and begun to recover from the anesthetics.
Some common forms of negligence by the anesthesiologist or his team include:
- The administration of the wrong dose of anesthesia;
- Failing to monitor the patient during and after the procedure;
- Failing to respond to emergency situations as they arise or responding in an inappropriate manner;
- Failing to calibrate and operate necessary medical equipment;
- Placing the intubation tube improperly, leading to potential damage to the throat, larynx, or teeth of the patient;
- Failing to adequately inform the patient about the potential risks of anesthesia;
- Failing to provide sufficient information about the actions that the patient must take before undergoing the procedure, including prohibitions on eating and drinking for some period of time; and
- Failing to prevent complications such as pinched nerves by overseeing the shifting of the patient during the procedure to avoid long periods of time in one position.
Some of the consequences of negligence relating to the determination of the appropriate type of anesthesia prior to the procedure, the administration of the drugs and monitoring of the patient during the procedure, and the observation of the patient after the procedure has been completed include:
- Nerve damage – whether from an improperly administered injection or the inability of a patient to move to alleviate pressure on a pinched nerve, this can be short or long-term damage;
- Blood clots and strokes – patients may have higher risk factors for strokes during and after the surgery. This should be considered by the anesthesiologist in determining the dose and duration of anesthesia. In addition, it is critical to respond to the symptoms of the stroke immediately in order to minimize long-term harm;
- Brain damage – often resulting from lack of oxygen, this can leave a patient with cognitive impairment and may lead to death;
- Anaphylaxis – an allergic reaction to anesthesia can lead to life-threatening complications;
- Respiratory difficulties, including the development of pneumonia;
- Consciousness during the procedure – there are situations where the patient is rendered immobile, but is alert during the procedure, leading to terrible consequences such as awareness of pain;
- Post-operative complications such as vomiting, confusion, and anxiety;
- Damage to the throat and/or larynx; and
- Damage to the patient’s teeth as a result of the placement of the breathing tube during the procedure – this is a very common type of harm suffered by patients who were placed under general anesthesia.
Whether the mistake was made in the administration of too much or too little anesthesia or the anesthesiologist administered the wrong type of anesthesia, the health consequences to a patient can be traumatic. It is crucial to determine legal rights as soon as possible in order to bring a malpractice case before the applicable statutes of limitations run and the victim and his or her family is prevented from recovering damages.
Stern Law, PLLC Works Hard to Get Anesthesiologist Malpractice Victims Help
Undergoing any procedure that requires anesthesia involves some risk, but when the anesthesiologist makes a preventable mistake, the consequences can be deadly. For more than 30 years, the experienced attorney at Stern Law, PLLC has fought to get victims of medical malpractice the compensation that they need to pay bills, obtain ongoing medical treatment, and strive for a quality of life similar to the one that they led prior to the preventable error that caused so much harm. Stern Law, PLLC also has compassionate and knowledgeable staff members ready to provide information and resources for those who have questions about professional malpractice issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not you are a client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.