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. When mistakes are made with any type of anesthesia, patients can suffer physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
Mistakes do happen, but if your injury was the result of medical negligence, there are legal options available to you. If you or a loved one was injured as a result of an anesthesia error, you do have the option to file a medical malpractice claim against the medical professionals who caused the error.
To figure out if you have an anesthesia error claim, you can meet with our Washington, DC anesthesia error lawyer at Regan Zambri Long PLLC to find out if you qualify for compensation. With medical experts on staff, we can investigate your anesthesia medical malpractice claim and determine what legal steps are available to you.
There are four types of anesthesia that may be administered to a patient during a surgical procedure or certain medical tests:
General anesthesia is used for complex surgical procedures. It renders the patient unconscious and prevents the brain from feeling any pain signals. It uses a combination of intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses called anesthetics. While under, the patient’s vital functions need to be monitored. Sometimes, both an anesthesiologist and a certified registered nurse anesthetist work as a team to administer general anesthesia.
Also known as procedural sedation, this type of anesthesia uses a combination of medicines to help the patient relax while blocking any pain caused during a medical procedure. Patients may stay awake while under conscious sedation. The level of sedation varies — from minimal to fairly deep.
Regional anesthesia uses local anesthetics to numb 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. The types of regional anesthesia include spinal anesthesia, epidural anesthesia, and nerve blocks.
Local anesthesia is a one-time injection that numbs a small area of the body. It is used for minor procedures like stitches, repairing a bone, or performing a biopsy. The patient remains awake throughout the procedure.
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.
When a patient is under general anesthesia, 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, they may experience a lack of oxygen which can lead to a stroke, brain damage, or cardiac arrest. One medical study found that one in 2,000 to 3,000 patients will aspirate while under general anesthesia. Half of those patients will develop a related lung injury.
In some cases, when the anesthesiologist performs epidural or spinal anesthesia, the needle may 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. Spinal anesthesia, if administered incorrectly, can cause nerve damage. The patient can lose feeling or movement in parts of their lower body, which can take weeks or months to recover from.
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, one to two patients will wake up during surgery. These patients often report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after waking up from surgery.
The bottom line is, mistakes happen when the anesthesiologist administering anesthesia 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.
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.
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 medical professional. These are complex cases and you need the experience and expertise of a Washington, DC medical malpractice attorney.
To successfully win an anesthesia mistake lawsuit, you must be able to prove:
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.
Find out who your anesthesiologist will be and research their license. You can verify a doctor’s license and any disciplinary actions on the District Of Columbia Department of Health License Search.
Give honest answers when asked about lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use. These factors may impact what type or dosage of anesthesia is safe for you.
Make sure you fully understand the risks associated with both your surgery and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
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 do not pay an attorney’s fee until the case is successful. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.