Anesthesia is an umbrella term for the various medications that a doctor administers prior to surgery or a medical procedure. There are different types of anesthesia that range from rendering a patient unconscious to providing localized pain relief. Mistakes can be made with all types of anesthesia. Patients suffer physically, emotionally, and psychologically when they are the victim of anesthesia errors.
You can meet with one of our skilled attorneys at Regan Zambri Long to find out if you qualify for compensation after anesthesia medical malpractice.
There are four types of anesthesia that may be administered to a patient during an operation or certain medical tests.
This is often referred to as going under and administered through an IV or a mask. A person who undergoes general anesthesia is not simply asleep; they are actually unconscious. Patients will receive general anesthesia for major surgeries like a heart operation or a hip replacement.
Here is when a patient may become drowsy and fall asleep, but they remain conscious. This type of anesthesia may be minimal, moderate, or deep. A patient who receives minimal IV sedation will remain awake and be able to answer the surgeon’s questions. Deep IV sedation will cause the patient to fall asleep and they likely won’t remember the procedure. Moderate IV sedation falls somewhere in between.
Numbs a large portion of the patient’s body while allowing them to remain awake and alert. This type of medication is given through a catheter or an injection and mostly given to control pain during childbirth.
An injection that numbs a small area, used for minor procedures like stitches. The patient remains awake.
Anesthesia errors can occur with any type. But mistakes that are made when administering general anesthesia often have the most serious consequences.
Many things can go wrong when an anesthesiologist does not do their job correctly. Some of the more common anesthesia errors happen when:
Some of these mistakes will lead to serious or lifelong complications for the patient.
The consequences of anesthesia errors are wide-ranging.
During general anesthesia, a patient cannot breathe on their own. As a result, they are intubated and remain on a ventilator during their operation. Carelessness during the intubation process can result in tooth damage. This can lead to pain associated with tooth damage, difficulty eating or drinking, as well as dental surgery to repair the damage.
Another consequence of a general anesthesia mistake is that the patient remains conscious or they become conscious during the surgery.
As a result, these patients remember their surgery or parts of their surgery. Some will also feel pressure or pain at the surgical site. For every 1,000 procedures that happen under general anesthesia, one to two patients will wake up during surgery. These patients often report lasting psychological trauma due to their experience.
When a patient is under general anesthesia, they must be continuously monitored. Any changes in body temperature, oxygen level, heart rate, as well as blood pressure must be noted and addressed. If a patient is not adequately monitored or does not receive the proper care during general anesthesia, they may experience a lack of oxygen, a stroke, or cardiac arrest. As a result, the patient can sustain brain damage or heart damage.
If the needle accidentally hits a nerve, the patient can experience a seizure. A patient may also have lasting nerve damage after an epidural, resulting in a tingling sensation or loss of feeling. In some cases, the needle will puncture the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. As a result, the patient experiences a cerebrospinal fluid leak (CFL). Conservative treatments for these leaks are not always successful. Some patients must undergo surgery to repair a CFL after an epidural.
The short answer is, too often. One study published in the Journal of Healthcare Risk Management analyzed 607 closed anesthesia claims that were made to a large national malpractice insurer between 2007 and 2012. This study found that the most frequent injuries were:
These types of injuries are avoidable. Understanding how and why anesthesia errors occur is important to prevent them in the first place.
The bottom line is, mistakes happen when an anesthesiologist is careless, inattentive, and doesn’t do their job correctly. Unfortunately, patients pay the price when the anesthesiologist:
If you or a family member has experienced an anesthesia error, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney.
It is extremely difficult for a patient to bring forth an anesthesia error lawsuit on their own. Some doctors won’t willingly speak out against another doctor. These are complex cases and you need the experience and expertise of an attorney.
To successfully win an anesthesia mistake lawsuit, you must be able to prove two things. First, that an anesthesia error actually occurred. And secondly, that the anesthesia error caused damages. In the eyes of the law, “damages” are things like bodily injury and emotional distress.
A medical malpractice settlement of this type typically covers:
The most serious anesthesia mistakes result in death or in an individual needing around-the-clock care. If your family experienced this, you may also be entitled to:
The Washington, DC statute of limitations sets forth the amount of time you have to pursue such a legal case. Typically, the clock starts ticking the day that the anesthesia mistake occurred or when the patient was made aware of the error. However, there are many factors at play in anesthesia mistakes, including if death resulted.
It is difficult to predict how long an anesthesia error case will take to complete. Oftentimes, the more serious your or your loved one’s injuries are, the longer the case may last.
Some of the factors that impact how long a medical malpractice case can take are:
It is not unusual for an anesthesia error case to take a year or more to conclude. We know that it’s difficult to have to wait, but our attorneys are in it for the long haul. We want the best possible outcome for you, which may not be the quickest.
Keep in mind that when you hire us, you won’t pay us until after you receive your settlement. That allows you to receive legal representation without incurring more bills.
When patients undergo an operation or medical test, they put their trust in the doctors as well as hospital staff. During most medical procedures, particularly if the patient is under general anesthesia, they are unable to speak up if something is wrong. Fortunately, there are steps that a patient can take prior to surgery to reduce their odds of an anesthesia error.
Patients can be vigilant, but anesthesia mistakes can and do still happen. If you or a loved one want to learn more about your legal rights, we’re here to help.
At Regan Zambri Long, our entire practice is dedicated to representing clients who were injured due to someone else’s negligence. And that includes medical malpractice cases like anesthesia errors.
The attorneys at our firm have over 100 years of combined legal experience. In fact, we are the law firm that other lawyers turn to. Regan Zambri Long often receives referrals from other firms. Some anesthesia mistake cases are expensive to pursue, both in terms of finances and resources.
Our firm works on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay nothing upfront. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.