What Are the Effects of Anesthesia Errors?
Anesthesia is a critical part of modern medicine that allows doctors and other medical professionals to perform surgeries and procedures that wouldn’t be possible without anesthesia. Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of medical malpractice claims in the country is anesthesia error. When doctors or anesthesiologists make mistakes with a patient’s anesthesia, these mistakes can carry disastrous or even fatal consequences.
How Does Anesthesia Work?
Anesthesia numbs parts of the body or renders a patient unconscious, so surgeons may perform procedures on the patient with minimal pain and discomfort. There are four main types of anesthesia:
- This type of anesthesia only affects a small part of the body, common in dental surgeries and extremity injury treatment. For example, a doctor may use local anesthesia on a patient’s finger to numb it and suture a wound closed.
- More potent than local anesthesia, regional anesthetics will numb a larger portion of the body, such as an entire arm or leg. This is common when treating bone fractures or wounds too large for local anesthesia.
- This type of anesthesia is numbing but the patient is often still conscious. A doctor injects epidural anesthesia into the spine. This type of anesthesia is very common in childbirth procedures.
- This type of anesthesia renders a patient completely unconscious.
Any type of anesthesia, even small doses of local anesthesia, can have catastrophic consequences for patients in different circumstances. Doctors and anesthesiologists must carefully scrutinize a patient’s medical history and condition to ensure the type of anesthesia they plan to administer is safe for the patient. Some people are allergic to certain medicines or additives in anesthetics, and failing to account for these issues can lead to serious damages and liability for medical malpractice.
Doctors must also ensure patients follow preoperative instructions, such as fasting or limiting intake prior to receiving anesthesia. For example, if a patient has a full stomach before receiving general anesthesia it can cause vomiting or other digestive problems that can complicate the procedure or make the procedure impossible to complete at the time. Doctors must also account for the prescription medications a patient takes that may interfere with anesthesia.
Potential Consequences of an Anesthesia Error
Anesthesia errors can lead to a host of problems for patients. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening for some patients, while others may experience symptoms due to incorrect dosage or delivery of the anesthesia. Some of the possible symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dizziness and confusion.
- Heart rate problems or arrhythmia.
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
- Organ damage.
- Cardiovascular complications.
- Brain damage.
- Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen.
- Spinal cord injuries.
One of the more frightening possible issues that can occur from an insufficient dose of anesthesia is a condition called “anesthesia awareness.” A patient who experiences this condition will be completely paralyzed and unable to speak or move, but will still feel all of the sensations of the procedure. This means the patient is essentially awake on the operating table and can feel the pain of the surgery, but it unable to call out for help. This condition often leads to serious psychological distress following the procedure, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Suing for an Anesthesia Error
Anesthesia errors fall under the purview of medical malpractice law. A plaintiff who files a lawsuit for an anesthesia error must prove that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and defendant, and the defendant failed to meet an acceptable standard of care, resulting in an anesthesia error. To win the case, the plaintiff must then prove that his or her damages were the direct result of the error.
Plaintiffs can recover compensation for any necessary remedial medical procedures to correct the damage done by an anesthesia error, including long-term care for disabilities or psychological trauma resulting from the error.
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