In most cases, the use of general anesthesia goes without complications and smoothly. It is, after all, mostly safe. If it were not, it would not be widely used in hospitals across the country. Even those with health conditions can use general anesthesia for procedures.
However, there is always a risk of complication with any medical procedure. A person could be entirely healthy and still suffer complications. Other times, the anesthesiologist, nurse, or another healthcare provider accidentally causes harm through negligence.
There are rare side effects to anesthesia, but a physician is required to inform you of these risks completely before obtaining your consent.
For example, one to two patients out of every 10,000 may suffer a condition known as unintended intraoperative awareness. The person is awake, but cannot speak or move to indicate such. Muscle relaxants are given to patients undergoing surgery to ease the transition, but those muscle relaxants make it hard for them to let doctors know they are awake or suffering pain.
In this case, a patient not only has the physical pain but long-term psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from experience.
The risk of a fatality under anesthesia is minimal. For a healthy person with a planned surgical procedure, the risk is much lower. For a sick person with a planned procedure, the risk slightly increases. Most anesthesia errors occur in emergency surgery situations, where there is limited time to prepare or get a full history from the patient.
When assessing the risks of anesthesia, you must realize that all surgical procedures and medical treatments carry risk. Even an over-the-counter medication like Tylenol has its risks.
However, when a person undergoes surgery, it is the surgeon and anesthesiologist’s job to assess the patient’s level of risk, discuss those risks with the patient, and ensure they are aware of the likelihood that these risks become a reality based on their health history.
The risk of death from anesthesia is small, but that does not mean it does not happen. However, when a death occurs, it is often due to one of the following:
An individual could have an adverse reaction to anesthesia or even suffer a fatality when certain factors are present. A surgeon is required to discuss a patient’s risk of death during a procedure with them, and the anesthesiologist too.
Some reasons a person may have an increased risk of anesthesia-related fatality include:
Brain damage is more likely to occur than death when complications arise from anesthesia. Brain damage results in the death or permanent damage to the brain’s cells. This occurs when there is head trauma too, but in the surgical setting, it typically indicates a lack of oxygen and blood flow.
A person that has suffered brain injury during their surgical procedure might have convulsions, dilation of the eyes, inability to wake from their sleep, weakness, loss of coordination, confusion, or permanently be in a coma.
Typically, there are two reasons why a patient could experience brain damage during the surgical procedure.
A stroke that occurs during operation, such as a blood clot that blocks blood supply to the brain, can lead to a devastating and irreversible amount of brain damage. The blood supply stops quickly to the brain, which means no oxygen reaches the brain or other vital organs. The cells in the area where blood is lacking die.
The risk of stroke increases for individual patients, such as those over the age of 65 years or patients with a history of stroke. Also, a person having surgery on the neck, head, or heart have a heightened risk for suffering an intraoperative stroke.
The combined effects of anesthesia and surgery lead to the stroke, but also a stroke can occur up to ten days post-op.
Rarely, brain damage occurs because the brain does not receive enough oxygen. This could be an issue with the breathing tube, which delivers oxygen to the lungs and brain.
Anesthesiologists have a high rate for malpractice suits. In fact, Medscape performed a study that found male physicians were more likely to have a lawsuit than females. Also, while not the most sued, most anesthesiologists will have at least one malpractice claim in their lifetime.
The common cause of these lawsuits includes:
Interestingly, anesthesiologists are more likely to be sued later in their careers. Those who are 70 or older are at the highest risk for error, while those 34 years or younger have the lowest risk. For each five-year increment, the risk of a lawsuit increases dramatically for these physicians.
The administration of anesthesia is complicated and risky. It can include a risk of too much or too little anesthesia administered, the use of the wrong type, or failure to review the patient’s medical history. However, when these errors occur, many wonder who is actually accountable.
Sometimes it is the anesthesiologist, while other times it is the hospital.
The most common complications are postoperative pain, nausea, vomiting, and temporary confusion. However, these should go away after a few hours and once the anesthetic completely wears off.
Other injuries that might require further medical treatment include:
While some mistakes are unforeseeable, other complications during anesthesia are predictable and even caused by the anesthesiologist’s negligence.
The most typical mistakes seen in these instances include:
These cases are extremely complicated. Not only do you need an attorney to help you establish negligence, but a crew of medical experts to discover where the error occurred and who deviated from the acceptable standard of care.
Malpractice occurs in many ways, but medical negligence is what determines if you have a case against your provider for anesthesia injuries or death.
To prove that there was negligence, your attorney will hire experts to assess your pre-surgical risk factors, and the operative notes to determine what errors occurred during the procedure.
Regardless of what type of injury or what caused that injury, you have the right to receive a higher quality of care from medical providers. Therefore, when a serious injury occurs, you need an advocate there to help you recover compensation.
Contact Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Contact us online to get started.