When an individual undergoes surgery or other medical procedures, there is always a certain level of risk involved. This risk does not only stem from the surgery, but from the anesthesia to be administered. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, anesthetic drugs are administered throughout the United States approximately 40 million times a year.
If you have reason to believe that you or a loved one was a victim of an anesthesia error, it would be best to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury law firm in Columbus as soon as possible.
In most instances, patients benefit from anesthetic drugs without experiencing any side effects or issues. Sometimes, however, malpractice and errors related to the administration of anesthesia occur, resulting in serious problems for patients.
Anesthesia errors can occur at various points during the surgical process—such as at the doctor’s office, during pre-operative preparation, in the operating room, or in the recovery room. While not every mistake made by an anesthesiologist will result in a viable legal claim, the case may proceed if the error resulted from the anesthesiologist’s failure to meet the accepted standard of medical care.
Anesthesia is typically provided by an anesthesiologist, or a medical doctor with special training in anesthesia. Other individuals who may administer anesthesia are a nurse anesthetist or specially trained advanced practice nurse, or even medical residents in training.
Anesthesiologists are not only responsible for administering anesthesia in the operating room, but also for monitoring the patient’s cardiopulmonary function and maintaining specific levels of consciousness throughout the procedure.
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Types of anesthesia
Anesthetics refer to a substance that causes the loss of consciousness or sensation. There are various forms of anesthesia, each serving a specific purpose. Anesthesia errors are considered to be especially risky during invasive surgical procedures that require patients to undergo total sedation. Still, errors can occur with all types of anesthesia. These include:
- General anesthesia – Involves complete sedation; patients are rendered unconscious and without feeling
- Epidural and spinal anesthesia – Delivered via injection through the spinal cord
- Local anesthesia – Numbs a specific part of the body, such as a tooth, finger or urinary bladder
- Regional anesthesia – Numbs larger areas of the body, such as the leg or the arm
- Dissociative anesthesia – Blocks nerve transmissions; causes a state of consciousness similar to a trance
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Causes of anesthesia errors
Advances in technology have significantly reduced the rates of medical errors related to the use of anesthesia. Anesthesia errors have not been entirely eliminated though, and continue to cause disabling injuries and death.
Generally, anesthesia errors occur when an anesthesiologist makes simple errors in judgment or overlooks signs that indicate danger to their patient. Common causes of anesthesia errors include:
- Administering the incorrect anesthesia drug
- Anesthesia awareness or administering too little of one or more anesthetic drugs
- Administering too much of one or more anesthetic drugs
- Delayed delivery of anesthesia
- Failing to review a patient’s medical history properly
- Failing to prevent anesthesia interactions
- Failing to administer oxygen or properly monitor the patient’s vital signs during surgery
- Failing to give proper instructions to patients prior to anesthesia, such as limiting liquid or food intake
- Defective medical equipment and devices used during anesthetic administration
Effects of anesthesia mistakes
No matter how minor or major an anesthesiologist’s mistake may be, the injuries sustained by the patient may be life-altering or even fatal. Anesthesia errors may result in the following complications and effects:
- Confusion and dizziness
- Blurred vision or blindness
- Ringing noise in the ears
- Brain or organ damage
- Blood pressure complications
- Artery, vein and nerve damage
- Lung infection
- Spinal cord injury
- Abnormal pulse or heart arrhythmia
- Heart function problems
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Malignant hyperthermia
- Inadequate oxygen supply or asphyxia
- Damage to the teeth, mouth, or trachea due to improper intubation
- Birth defects
Complications arising from anesthesia can vary greatly, and so treatment is dependent on the type of error experienced by the patient. Treatment may range from medication to surgery and physical therapy. Though fatalities stemming from anesthesia are relatively rare, it does happen.
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The Fitch Law Firm can examine your case exhaustively and help you seek financial compensation for the injuries you have sustained due to anesthesia errors. You may be eligible to collect a recovery for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, and other damages and losses.
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