Anesthesia is an essential part of many medical procedures. It prevents the patient from feeling pain, from localized numbing to complete unconsciousness. However, the administering of anesthesia comes with serious risk, just like any procedure, and it is essential your anesthesiologist is trained and responsible. When a medical professional is negligent in this area and makes a mistake, anesthesia errors can cause serious or fatal injuries.
What are the different types of anesthesia?
Typically, the anesthesia a patient receives depends on their procedure. Some types are more suitable than others, and generally your doctor will want to use the safest one possible – although it is important to remember that no medical procedure is completely without risk. Doctors use three common types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia. Medical professionals use local anesthesia for minor procedures, like dental work, stitches, or dermatological work. It is typically administered via injection or as a topical solution, and considered one of the safer forms of anesthesia.
- Regional anesthesia. When a patient does not need to be fully unconscious but needs a larger part of the body numbed, a doctor can use regional anesthesia. Examples of this type of anesthesia include epidurals, spinal anesthesia, and nerve blocks. Regional anesthesia is administered by injection, usually through single-dose or gradually.
- General anesthesia. Used for lengthy or involved surgeries and procedures, general anesthesia makes a patient fully unconscious. This is also the highest-risk anesthesia; patients are completely sedated and will need assistance breathing, as well as constant monitoring of their vital signs, throughout the procedure.
If an anesthesiologist fails to get a current medical history of a patient, including their allergies and medications, or fails to correctly monitor a patient, the outcome could be tragic.
What are some common anesthesia errors?
Errors in anesthesia dosage and administration can happen for a variety of reasons, but when they happen due to negligence, a patient at a South Carolina hospital or facility may have a medical malpractice claim. Common anesthesia negligence errors include:
- Incorrect dosage
- Failure to monitor patient’s vital signs
- Overly prolonged sedation
- Failure to recognize and respond to complications
- Faulty or malfunctioning equipment
- Intubation errors
- Adverse medication reactions
- Medical staff miscommunication
- Allergic reactions
- Delayed delivery of anesthesia
- Turning off warning alarms on equipment
Additionally, patients who receive too little anesthesia can wake up during surgery, a condition called “anesthesia awareness.” This can cause a patient extreme pain, distress, and long-term trauma.
What injuries are caused by anesthesia errors?
Depending on the type of error, the injuries caused by negligent administration of anesthesia can be myriad. Some of the more serious, however, include:
- Heart attack
- Traumatic brain injury
- Nerve damage
- Spinal cord injury and paralysis
- Wrongful death
- Birth injury
Errors in administering anesthesia can also cause damage to the mouth, teeth, and voice box, as well as trigger spasms in the larynx or bronchia tubes if intubation is performed incorrectly.
Am I at risk for an anesthesia complication?
The American Society of Anesthesiologists notes that, before receiving anesthesia, you should meet with your anesthesiologist for a health assessment so they have the information they need to make safe health decisions on your behalf. They also state that your risk of anesthesia complications may be higher if you have (or have had) the following conditions:
- “Allergies to anesthesia or a history of adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Heart disease (angina, valve disease, heart failure, or a previous heart attack)
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Lung conditions (asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Seizures or other neurological disorders”
Smoking or drinking two or more alcoholic beverages a day can also increase your risk of anesthesia complications.
Who is liable for anesthesia errors and injuries?
The anesthesiologist may not be the only liable party for your injuries and losses. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, other liable parties could include:
- The hospital or medical center
- The overseeing surgeon or physician
- Medical staff
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Medical equipment manufacturers
Your South Carolina injury attorneys will work to prove your case, as well as demand compensation for your injuries. A successful medical malpractice case typically includes compensation for losses like:
- Medical bills, current and future
- Loss of wages and future earning potential
- Permanent disability and long-term care
- Pain and suffering
- Other costs associated with your injuries
In order to prove your case, your legal team must show that your anesthesiologist and/or medical team failed to act with the care that a competent physician would have under the same circumstances.
The medical malpractice attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC help victims of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one were injured because of the negligence of a medical professional, we are here to hold them accountable for the harm they have caused – and help ensure they will never do it again. To schedule a free consultation with one of our South Carolina injury attorneys, call 803-327-7800, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood