Why Did My Husband Have An Arrhythmia During Surgery?


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Regardless of the age of the patient or the exact type of procedure being performed, surgery is a scary thing. Undergoing general anesthesia can be a nerve-wracking experience, and all surgical procedures come with some degree of risk. One specific concern that should be addressed among surgical patients is the presence or risk of an arrhythmia. Let’s look at this condition in more detail to get a better understanding of what this entails.

What is an arrhythmia?

Put in the most basic terms, an arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Those who are suffering from an arrhythmia have an issue with the rate or rhythm of their heartbeat – their heart may be beating too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Some arrhythmias are so brief that they do not impact the overall heart rate or rhythm enough to cause any type of concern. While some arrhythmias are completely harmless, others can be life-threatening. Severe arrhythmias can cause the heart to pump blood less effectively. As a result, the brain and all other organs in the body are not able to function properly, resulting in damage or organ failure.

What are the risk factors for an arrhythmia?

Before undergoing any type of surgical procedure, it is important for both doctors and patients to have a clear understanding of any medical conditions present that may put the patient at an increased risk for developing an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias are more commonly seen in individuals who have certain conditions that impact the strength and function of the heart. Several of the specific risk factors for an arrhythmia include:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Congenital heart conditions
  • Heart valve disease
  • Inflamed heart muscle or lining
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea

Why can an arrhythmia develop during surgery?

During the vast majority of major surgical procedures, patients are given general anesthesia to induce sleep and eliminate the feeling of any pain. However, there are always risks involved when receiving anesthesia, and this medical concoction has the capability to have effects on the heart. General anesthesia has the ability to cause abnormal heartbeats. Additionally, if an arrhythmia already exists, anesthesiologists and the rest of the medical staff must remain vigilant of the patient’s vital signs during the procedure.

How did this happen to you?

If you have found yourself at this resource, chances are that a loved one has experienced an arrhythmia during surgery, and you are probably wondering how you ended up in this position. Arrhythmias can happen, but there are also safeguards and precautions in place that should help eliminate some of the risk.

Did the doctor or medical staff request a complete list of medications that the patient was taking? There are certain medications that can interact with anesthesia to cause an arrhythmia, so these details should have been noted and reviewed by the anesthesiologist. Was a complete medical history taken prior to the procedure? If any of the risk factors discussed previously were present in the patient, precautions should have been taken.

The unfortunate reality is that having an arrhythmia increases an individual’s risk of cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke. Additionally, when the heart is pumping blood less effectively, the brain and other organs are unable to function at their full potential. In certain cases, when the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply (hypoxia), brain damage can occur.

If your husband had a major arrhythmia during surgery, our professional team of doctors and lawyers can help you uncover the root of the problem. Contact us today to get some peace of mind on this matter.

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

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