Any time patients undergo surgical procedures, anesthesia is almost always involved, and it is the health care provider’s job and the anesthesiologist’s job to ensure that they administer the proper medication in the appropriate dosage. Errors in anesthesia use can be extremely hazardous to patients, and if the error resulted from negligence, these mistakes are a form a medical malpractice.
Types of Anesthesia and Their Uses
Anesthesia takes many forms, but all forms manage the patient’s pain during a surgical procedure. There are four types of anesthesia:
- Local – Commonly seen in dental procedures, local anesthesia numbs or desensitizes a small part of the body, such as a section of the jaw or a finger that requires stitches.
- Regional – A more potent form of local anesthetic that numbs a larger area of the body. If local anesthetic numbs a finger, regional would numb the hand or most of the arm.
- General – Any time a patient must be unconscious for surgery, general anesthetic is used. This puts the patient in an unconscious state, and their vital signs must be monitored carefully and continuously throughout the procedure.
- Sedatives – This type of anesthesia is for long-term pain management or to keep a patient in a relaxed state for an extended time. In some cases, the patient is awake and conscious while sedated.
Any health care professional involved with the administration of anesthesia must exercise extreme caution in the preparation, application, and management of the drugs used on patients. Even a small error can kill a patient or cause permanent injuries including brain damage and impaired movement. Some of the following situations also may cause serious issues for the patient:
- The anesthesiologist or presiding health care professional did not thoroughly research the patient’s medical history for any preexisting conditions that could interfere with anesthesia.
- The patient was not informed fully about any necessary preoperative steps they should take before the surgery. Often, this includes abstaining from food and drink for several hours before a procedure.
- The patient received too much anesthesia.
- The presiding health care professionals failed to check the patient’s vital signs regularly during the surgery.
- The surgeon did not properly use equipment, such as breathing apparatus and intubation systems.
- The anesthesiologist used expired or defective drugs or members of the surgical team used defective equipment or instruments.
- The surgical team failed to communicate effectively during the procedure.
Regardless of the type of anesthesia involved, the health care professionals presiding over the surgery are responsible for ensuring that they do no harm to their patient. Errors in anesthesia can cause permanent disabilities or debilitating conditions, including brain damage resulting in cognitive impairment, nerve damage, aspirational pneumonitis (a term used to describe a patient inhaling vomit into the lungs, causing an infection), or anesthesia awareness.
Anesthesia awareness is a terrifying condition that occurs during surgery when a patient is not fully unconscious. In some situations, patients cannot feel pain but are fully aware of their surroundings and may witness some of the surgical procedure being performed on them. In rarer cases, the patient can feel the full pain of the procedure but is unable this to communicate to the surgical team, because the anesthesia renders them paralyzed. Individuals who experience anesthesia awareness usually suffer long-term psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, flashbacks, and sleep complications.
No one who has suffered any type of injury as the result of an error in anesthesia should have to deal with the effects alone. At Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, we believe that any negligent individuals involved in the error need to bear the responsibility for the pain they cause and be held accountable for their actions.
Anyone in the Springfield, Mo., area who has suffered from anesthesia or who has had a loved one permanently disabled or killed due to an anesthesia mistake should have compassionate legal representation fighting on his or her behalf. Reach out to the legal experts at Douglas, Haun & Heidemann to start reviewing your case today.