During surgery or other medical procedures, anesthesia is administered to prevent patients from feeling pain. Administered by an anesthesiologist, there are three types of anesthesia – local (to numb a specific area), regional (to numb a larger part of the body and general anesthesia (induces unconsciousness). Administering anesthesia comes with serious risks too, as any anesthesia error can lead to serious long-term injuries or even death, which in turn results in medical negligence or malpractice lawsuits. In such cases, medical malpractice attorneys have to prove that the damage was caused by the anesthesiologist’s negligence. Medical records serve as key evidence and accurate medical record review help attorneys evaluate the case in detail and collect key points out of even huge amount of records.
The type of anesthesia used for each patient depends on the nature of the medical procedure they are undergoing. Anesthesia errors can occur both before and during a surgical procedure. Injured patients can pursue a medical malpractice or even a personal injury claim, and in case of a patient’s death due to anesthesia error, family members may make a claim for wrongful death damages.
Some common anesthesia errors which harm patients include the following.
Intubation refers to inserting a tube into the trachea to assist with breathing during surgery and extubation is removing this breathing tube from the patient’s windpipe. This tube helps to maintain oxygen flow during the procedure. If anesthesiologists place this endotracheal tube improperly, it can lead to serious breathing complications as well as nerve damage in the neck or esophagus, brain damage due to lack of oxygen, stroke, damage to the larynx, or paralysis of the vocal cords. During extubation too, it is critical to ensure that the patients are able to breathe effectively on their own and check for symptoms of any airway difficulties.
Administering too much anesthesia or too less is a common error. Anesthesia overdose can result in severe consequences such as heart and brain damage. At the same time, under dose can cause patients to regain consciousness during surgery and experience trauma and distress. Wrong type of anesthesia could also negatively affect the individual and lead to damage to the respiratory system or other areas that may require added treatment for a full recovery. Providing wrong anesthesia type can also be the result of misdiagnosis or even a mistake in the records.
Not Reviewing the Patient’s Records
If the anesthesiologist does not review a patient’s chart, medical history and other records to learn about allergies to any medications and likely complications, patient’s current medications, or health status, it would amount to medical malpractice.
Failing to Monitor Patients
Along with properly administering anesthesia, anesthesiologist’s duty of care involves standing by patients during the entire procedure and monitoring the blood oxygen levels, regulating the consciousness level and so on. Failing to monitor patients’ breathing condition, heart rate and blood pressure can prove fatal. By providing proper care, doctors can prevent nerve damage and other serious conditions in patients. Accidentally or intentionally turning off monitoring equipment like a pulse oximeter also is considered as an act of medical negligence.
Not Following Standard Protocols
Doctors are required to follow certain standard protocols with the surgical procedure that include the duty of care owed to the patient, such as – the right thing to do in case of certain issues such as awareness during anesthesia and allergic reactions, providing proper preoperative instructions and informing a patient on how to prepare for surgery. Not following such standards can leave the professional or the hospital open to liability concerns.
Damages caused as a result of anesthesia errors may include medical treatment, additional procedures, pain and suffering and trauma imposed. To prove such anesthesia errors, medical malpractice attorneys have to establish essential elements such as duty (there existed an established relationship between the anesthesiologist and patient), breach of that duty of care, injury or harm that resulted in damages, and causation that the injury was directly caused by the breach of care.
Disclaimer: The content in the above blog is sourced from various reliable internet resources and is meant for informative purposes only. It doesn’t constitute professional opinion. For a professional opinion, please consult a medical malpractice or personal injury attorney.