Anesthesia makes it possible to perform complex surgeries without subjecting a patient to traumatic pain. Unfortunately, anesthesia is not without its dangers. One seemingly small error can result in catastrophic injury.
Because most anesthesia injuries are caused by human error, they are usually entirely avoidable and typically only occur when medical staff personnel do not follow mandatory protocol.
Many of these injuries occur while patients are still unconscious, leaving them with little memory of what happened.
Anesthesia and Professional Negligence
When people go in for a procedure, they expect their doctor to follow the rules and apply their skills to achieve the best possible outcome. Sadly, this is not always how the situation plays out. Anesthesia is used in many surgeries and situations, and therefore, injuries can occur at any time. A patient could go in for a routine procedure and end up with life-changing ailments.
Whether a patient is left unmonitored or given the wrong dosage, errors can happen that have serious ramifications, up to and including the death of the patient.
How Widespread Is Anesthesia Malpractice?
Anesthesia injuries across the country are monitored by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) with the goal of bolstering patient safety and improving administrative procedures. Their research has concluded that 65% of anesthesia malpractice claims are centered around surgical anesthesia.
Additionally, ASA research indicates that the most serious complications of anesthesia-related injuries are death, nerve damage, and permanent brain injury. As you can see, anesthesia injuries can change a person’s life in an instant.
While the aforementioned injuries are undoubtedly the most serious, the most frequently reported injuries related to anesthesia include:
- Tooth damage
- Organ damage
- Cardiac arrest
No matter the extent of the injury, sustaining an injury due to the misuse of anesthesia by a medical professional is a serious violation of trust that should be addressed in a medical malpractice claim.
What Are the Most Common Anesthesia Errors?
When an anesthesiologist makes a mistake, the results are often far-reaching. Here are some of the most common errors:
Administering the Wrong Dose
Sometimes, doctors administer an improper dose of anesthesia. Whether too much or too little, the results can be disastrous. However, it is important to note that this type of blunder can occur due to an error on the doctor’s part as well as due to a mislabeled container.
Improperly Monitoring Patients
When a patient is anesthetized, it is important to monitor their vital levels while they are unconscious. If complications arise, the medical professional responsible for monitoring them must act swiftly and decisively. If they fail to do this, the patient could be injured.
Making Intubation Errors
When a patient needs breathing assistance during surgery, a tube is placed into the windpipe. This process, known as intubation, must be performed delicately. If the person responsible for it makes a mistake, the patient could be injured.
Making Oxygen Level Errors
When a patient is under anesthesia, their oxygen levels should be closely monitored. If any fluctuations occur, the anesthesiologist must respond accordingly. If they miss something during the procedure, it could result in injury.
What Are the Most Common Anesthesia Injuries?
The most common anesthesia-related injuries are much milder than the more extreme cases. However, they are still serious breaches of trust that can result in immense pain and suffering. Here is a brief explanation of some of the most common anesthesia-related injuries, ranging from mild to severe.
Dental injuries are the number-one anesthesia-related injury that results in litigation. There are a variety of areas that can be damaged, with the trachea and esophagus being the most serious and least common. Typically, most people suffer from chipped teeth during the intubation process.
Damage from the intubation tube can also result in:
- Teeth being loosened
- Teeth being cracked
- Teeth being knocked out
Damage to the teeth is usually due to some form of negligence on the doctor’s part.
Many people do not realize that general anesthesia reduces the production of tears. Consequently, this renders the eyes more vulnerable during a procedure. This is why doctors will tape the patient’s eyes closed while they are under anesthesia. Unfortunately, sometimes this process is not completed correctly.
Since anesthesia slows the production of tears, the slightest bump to the eye can cause serious issues, up to and including blindness.
When a patient undergoes surgery on a limb, the hospital staff will administer nerve-block injections. This type of injection is administered alongside general anesthesia, but it is injected near the nerves that will be affected during the procedure. This is an extremely delicate process that requires skill and concentration.
Due to the nature and location of nerve blocks, the slightest error can result in irreversible damage. Known injuries have resulted in permanent numbness and paralysis.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it starts to die. Depriving the brain of oxygen for a prolonged period of time can therefore lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When the patient is under anesthesia, the overseeing physician is responsible for monitoring their vitals. In the event of oxygen deprivation, it is the physician’s responsibility to ensure safety.
Have You Experienced an Anesthesia Injury? Contact a Fort Walton Beach Medical Malpractice Attorney for Help
Anesthesia injuries can have serious consequences, not only for the victim who experienced the injury but also for the medical professionals who let it happen under their watch. If you have been subjected to an anesthesia injury due to someone else’s negligence, you need an experienced personal injury attorney by your side. Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys are here to help, call (850) 863-5297 today to schedule a free case evaluation.