While fewer people experience the adverse effects of anesthesia errors today than they did 40 years ago, an increasing number of people require anesthesia for medical procedures. Anesthesiologists, doctors, surgeons and medical assistants apply anesthesia to patients in hospitals and in outpatient surgical settings. They must adhere to the standard procedures of their medical field and administer anesthesia safely so patients do not experience adverse effects. The correct dosages, monitoring vital signs, keeping oxygen at proper levels and assessing to avoid potential allergic reactions are all aspects of standard anesthesia administration. Mistakes or actions that diverge from medical standards can severely harm patients, and in extreme cases can even result in death.
Determining whether anesthesia administration involved medical malpractice requires evaluation by medical experts. Experts have comprehensive knowledge of accepted anesthesia practices and can discern when errors or procedural failures have occurred. The following are often indicators of medical malpractice related to anesthesia.
Common serious side effects of an anesthesia overdose may include respiratory distress, hypothermia, seizures, brain injury, dementia, mental or physical impairment and death. In some cases, the side effects are not temporary but result in long term conditions.
While anesthesiologists must be careful not to administer too much anesthesia, inadequate levels can also cause detrimental effects.
Anesthesia awareness is a term used to describe when a patient becomes awake under general anesthesia. General anesthesia should render a patient unconscious. However, insufficient dosage can result in the patient becoming aware of the operation, the doctor’s conversation and other aspects of the surgery. The patient may experience paralysis and in rare cases may experience pain. Due to paralysis, patients often cannot speak out to let practitioners know they are awake. Anesthesia awareness can have traumatic consequences for patients, such as the patient experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety attacks, nightmares and fear of future surgery.
Anesthesiologists monitor certain vital signs while a patient is under anesthesia. They monitor the heart rate, heart rhythm, heart size, abnormal electrolyte blood levels, any blockage or lack of oxygen to the heart, blood pressure and oxygen levels. They also use anesthetic monitors to gage the amount of anesthesia delivery and may use a brain activity monitor to show the depth of anesthesia and oxygen supply to the brain. Failure to closely monitor the patient can result in oxygen deprivation, dangerous levels of anesthesia being administered or complications with heart or breathing functions.
If emergency circumstances arise, the anesthesiologist must take appropriate life support measures, which take precedence over all other procedures.
Other types of anesthesia errors can include:
At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP we have access to medical experts to help us evaluate anesthesia errors. We offer a free consultation to discuss the details of your injury and can investigate whether anesthesia malpractice caused your injury or the death of a loved one. In instances where wrongful death occurs, we can advise family members about their right to take legal action. We have compassion for our clients and for family members who have lost loved ones and work closely with you during the case.
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