How Anesthesia Can Go Terribly Wrong During a Medical Procedure


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From wisdom teeth removal to organ transplants, various types of anesthesia are used in a variety of medical procedures. The good news is that the development of anesthesia makes it possible for patients to undergo both minor and major medical procedures in a way that greatly reduces or eliminates their pain during the process. The bad news is that there are always risks involved when anesthesia is administered.

Before we go any further, it is important to note that there are three main categories of anesthesia in the medical field:

  • General anesthesia renders the patient unconscious and unresponsive, completely eliminating all of their awareness and sensations. This is the type of anesthesia that you may typically think of when a patient is put under for a surgical procedure or operation.
  • Regional anesthesia only numbs a region of the body that requires surgery, such as spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia. This makes it possible for patients to remain awake during the procedure (such as a cesarean section), but they do not see or feel the surgery.
  • Local anesthesia can take the form of an injection, liquid, or gel to numb a very specific area of the body. For example, local anesthesia may be applied to a patient’s hand while stitches are being administered or injected into the mouth during a dental procedure.

Common Errors Made with Anesthesia

In a society that has become increasingly dependent on the medical field and all of the new procedures that are now made available to us, anesthesia errors are only becoming more common. Whether the error is made during a routine procedure or a major surgery, it is easy for anesthesia mistakes to result in severe injuries or even death.

Medical malpractice involving anesthesia can occur in several ways. In fact, it is possible for a health care provider to demonstrate negligence before the procedure even begins. Two major indications of medical malpractice include:

  • The patient’s complete medical history was not taken and/or carefully examined to determine possible complications that could occur.
  • The patient was not properly informed of the potential risks involved if certain preoperative steps were not followed as instructed.

During the actual medical procedure, there are several errors that are most frequently made when it comes to anesthesia. These include:

  • Administering too much anesthesia, which can result in lack of oxygen, brain damage, and possibly death
  • Administering too little anesthesia, which can result in the patient waking up during surgery
  • Administering the incorrect anesthesia drug
  • Failing to properly monitor all of the patient’s vital signs during the procedure
  • Using faulty medical equipment and devices that were not tested beforehand

Potential Injuries After an Anesthesia Error

While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, even the smallest mistakes made regarding anesthesia can have lifelong consequences. Whether the patient experiences an allergic reaction or is deprived of oxygen for too long, the list of potential injuries is quite overwhelming. Some of the possible results of an anesthesia error include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Brain damage
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Death

Proving Medical Malpractice Involving Anesthesia

If you have a family member or loved one who has suffered from severe injuries or death after undergoing a medical procedure, you have every right to ask questions about how and why this occurred. While true mistakes can happen in the operating room and not every medical situation has a happy ending, the possibility of medical malpractice always exists. Specifically, if you suspect that an anesthesia error played a role in the injury, then it is time to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

In order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must be able to determine that negligence was a factor in the injury or death that occurred. This means that the health care provider was performing below the general medical standard and should have provided better care to the patient. However, in the vast majority of instances, the doctor, nurse, or anesthesiologist in question is not going to come out and admit that he or she was negligent before, during, or after the procedure.

A medical malpractice attorney can help you build a solid case by hiring an expert medical witness who can analyze the details of the case and notes from the procedure to determine what went wrong. Once it is determined that negligence can be proven, you can then move forward in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Ross Feller Casey for a free evaluation of your case.

About the Author

With more than 20 years of experience as a physician, Dr. Gerald B. Parker brings a unique perspective as a Philadelphia doctor-lawyer to Ross Feller Casey.

Gerald Parker, III

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.