The improper administration of anesthesia is a form of medical malpractice that can potentially cause serious, lasting injuries and death. A study published in 2019 found that 17,116 anesthetic errors were reported between 2007 and 2014, with 131 of these errors coinciding with the patient’s death. The study concluded that while there may be a low risk of anesthetic errors in hospitals in the United States, the risk is nonetheless real and that it disproportionately affects patients with certain preexisting conditions.
The victims of improper administration of anesthetic—and their loved ones—deserve competent, aggressive representation as they seek justice from negligent medical practitioners.
What Is Anesthetic?
Generally speaking, patients undergoing a surgical procedure will receive one of three types of anesthetic, depending on factors such as the nature of the procedure and the patient’s unique health concerns. Patients under general anesthetic will be rendered unconscious, and their brain will be prevented from processing pain from the body’s nerves. Patients under regional anesthetic will lose feeling in a region of their body. Patients under local anesthetic will lose feeling in a smaller, localized area of the body. Anesthetic is generally administered through gas or intravenous solution, whereas regional and local anesthetic is generally administered by shot.
Anesthesia, to be clear, is distinct from sedation: whereas the former results in the prevention of pain, the latter is used to relax the patient. That said, the two may be used in tandem in some procedures.
What Are Anesthetic Errors?
The improper administration of anesthesia may take many different forms. For instance, you may be aware that patients generally must avoid eating or drinking before a surgical procedure. If the patient’s medical professional does not adequately inform the patient of the need to fast before the procedure, and the patient accordingly fails to fast before the procedure, their risk of experiencing anesthetic errors may increase.
Then there are intubation and extubation errors. Patients under general anesthesia have paralyzed muscles, meaning they cannot breathe on their own as easily as when they’re awake. Medical professionals facilitate the flow of oxygen through the patient’s airways by intubating them, or inserting a breathing tube down the patient’s throat. When the procedure ends, the medical professional removes the tube in a process called extubation. If an anesthesiologist fails to correctly place intubate or extubate the patient, they may cause brain damage from lack of airflow; damage to the patient’s trachea; heart problems; nerve damage; lung damage; and even stroke.
Another common form of anesthetic error is the administration of the incorrect dosage of anesthetic. Patients who don’t receive enough anesthetic may regain consciousness mid-procedure, a phenomenon known as “anesthesia awareness.” In such situations, patients may be fully conscious and able to experience pain but still unable to move or communicate with their medical professionals. On the other hand, patients who receive too much anesthetic may sustain brain damage, coma, or death.
What Can I Do If I’m A Victim of Anesthetic Errors?
Patients undergoing surgery entrust their medical professionals, including their anesthesiologists, with their lives. In turn, anesthesiologists have a duty not to participate in a surgical procedure if they feel it’s too risky for the patient (or even not necessary at all). Anesthesiologists who fail to properly administer anesthesia, or to properly monitor the patient during or after surgery, may be found liable for negligence. The victims of anesthetic errors and their loved ones may be able to recover monetary damages.
The New York-based medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan have decades of experience fighting for patients’ rights and holding medical professionals accountable for their negligence. Our dedicated lawyers and medical experts will investigate your claim to determine whether anesthetic errors may have occurred, and we will provide you the peace of mind you deserve as we aggressively pursue justice. Please contact our medical malpractice lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.