By Osborne & Francis
July 20, 2022

When Are Anesthesia Errors Considered Medical Malpractice?

It’s estimated that there are well over 50 million surgeries performed in the U.S. each year. With a number like that, it’s extremely fortunate that medical technology has made anesthesia better and safer than it ever has been. However, even with modern technology, mistakes with anesthesia happen – and when they do, the results can be devastating, even permanent injury or death.

When an injury results from an anesthesia error, you may be entitled to compensation via a medical malpractice claim. However, not all medical mistakes are medical malpractice, so it’s important that you consult an attorney to help you determine how to proceed with your case.

In the meantime, it’s important for you to understand what these types of anesthesia mistakes look like and what their effects might be.

Types of Surgical Anesthesia

Anesthesia is used to prevent patients from suffering pain during surgery. Various forms have been used throughout the years. Currently, medicine uses three kinds of anesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia – This type of anesthesia is used to numb a specific part of the body and is generally used for less invasive procedures, like a mole removal or biopsy.
  • Regional anesthesia – This type of anesthesia numbs a larger area of the body. An epidural and spinal block are examples of regional anesthetics.
  • General anesthesia – This type of anesthesia causes the patient to be completely unconscious, so they are unable to feel pain.

Specially trained medical professionals administer anesthesia and monitor the patient during surgery. Mistakes can be made by anesthesiologists, but also by doctors, nurses, or any other medical staff member who is part of the medical team caring for the patient. When there is a breakdown in communication between these team members, or when a member is negligent in some way, errors can occur with serious consequences.

Types of Anesthesia Mistakes

You may think that anesthesia errors only occur during surgery, however, they can actually happen before, during, or after an operation or procedure.Anesthesia mistakes that are preoperative include:

  • Failing to educate the patient about the possible risks of the procedure they are about to undergo
  • Failing to thoroughly review the medical history of the patient for potential complications
  • Failing to provide the patient with preoperative instructions (for example, not letting a patient know that they need to fast for a certain number of hours prior to the surgery)

Anesthesia mistakes that happen during surgery include:

  • Delaying the administration of anesthesia
  • Administering too much or too little anesthesia for the operation
  • Administering the wrong type of anesthesia for the surgery
  • Failing to monitor or administer surgical oxygen properly
  • Failing to monitor the vital signs of the patient
  • Improperly inserting the intubation tube
  • Using equipment that is defective or faulty
  • Failing to identify or treat developing complications
  • A member of the surgical team being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the procedure

Anesthesia-related mistakes that occur after surgery include:

  • Leaving a patient sedated for too long
  • Leaving a patient who is still anesthetized unattended
  • Failing to provide post-operative instructions

Complications and Injuries Related to Anesthesia Errors

Errors involving anesthesia can cause a variety of complications and injuries. While some are minor and temporary, some can be severe, serious, and permanent. Complications and injuries include:

  • Preoperative pain that exceeds what the procedure itself should cause
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delirium or confusion
  • Injuries due to intubation
  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
  • Respiratory issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots
  • Brain damage
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

Even when the best care is provided by medical staff, mistakes can happen. For anesthesia mistakes to be considered medical malpractice, it has to be proven that a medical professional failed to meet the accepted standard of care or that they behaved negligently, and that the error caused the patient injury or harm. Hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney is in your best interest to help you prove these details.

If You Suffered Injury Due to an Anesthesia Mistake

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to an anesthesia error, or you suspect that is the case, the Law Office of Joseph Osborne can help you determine how to proceed with your claim. Contact our office today for a free consultation and review of your case.

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