Patients depend on anesthesiologists and nurse-anesthetists who are competent, dependable, and experienced. Unfortunately, Hannon Legal Group and our clients here in Florida have had the misfortune to encounter those who are not. When anesthesiologists are negligent, their errors can result in life-altering or even deadly consequences.
Anesthesia includes a variety of medications administered to patients in order to manage pain during a given medical procedure. These anesthesia medications might be administered topically, through a cream or spray. They might be ingested as a pill. Or they could be injected directly into the patient’s bloodstream either through a needle or an IV drip.Understanding Anesthesia and the Job of the Anesthesiologist
Not all anesthesia is general anesthesia, which involves being unconscious during a major operation. Other kinds of anesthesia include:
- Spinal and epidural anesthesia where an injection in the back numbs nerves so you won’t have to feel pain.
- Local anesthesia which numbs a specific part of the body like a tooth or a specific organ.
- Regional anesthesia where the the anesthesiologist numbs a larger area of the body, like your leg or your arm.
- Dissociative anesthesia in which a trance-like state is created in the patient.
Anesthesiologists are essential members of the surgical team. The primary function of the anesthesiologist is to ensure you that patients are safely kept from experiencing pain during a procedure. It is by no means a simple and straightforward task, but that is why they go through years of training and are well paid for their services.What Goes Wrong To Cause Anesthesia Errors
While anesthesiologists are critical to surgical care, they’re not always cautious in the way they administer that care. In fact, a study completed by Columbia University and discovered by Hannon Legal Group showed that of the 300 anesthesia-related deaths that occur each year, over 46% of them were the result of an overdose of anesthesia. However, that’s not the only anesthesia error that can occur. Anesthesia errors include:
- Overdose. This is the administration of too much of an anesthetic drug.
- Delay. That is, failing to deliver the anesthesia on time.
- The wrong drug. This happens when an anesthesiologist administers the incorrect anesthesia medication.
- Interaction errors. Some medications are contraindicated when another medication is being used. This is often referred to as a contraindicated combination of medications. Interaction errors happen when an anesthesiologist fails to prevent anesthesia interactions.
- Allergic reactions. This occurs when a patient has known allergies and an anesthesia medication that triggers the allergy is administered.
- Lack of instruction. It’s the anesthesiologist’s responsibility to tell the patient what to eat, drink, or not eat and drink, prior to being anesthetized.
- Oxygen error. One of the most dangerous anesthesia errors is when the anesthesiologist fails to properly monitor the patient’s oxygen levels and/or fails to administer enough oxygen during surgery.
- Equipment issues. The medical devices used to administer anesthesia are delicate technological marvels. But when they malfunction, patients can be harmed.
One of the most traumatic errors that happens in the operating room is when too little of one or more anesthetic drugs is administered and the patient retains some consciousness during the procedure. This is known as anesthesia awareness. The pain and suffering associated with this anesthesia error can be extraordinarily traumatic.
But this trauma isn’t the only negative consequence that can arise from an anesthesiologist’s error. Here are some of the other negative outcomes known to have occurred:
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate)
- Artery, vein, and nerve damage
- Asphyxia (inadequate oxygen supply)
- Birth defects
- Blood pressure complications (low and high)
- Brain damage (anoxic or hypoxic brain damage due to inadequate oxygen)
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Coma and death
- Confusion, dizziness, and/or blurred vision
- Heart function problems
- Malignant hypothermia (low body temperature) that results in severe fever and muscle contractions
- Organ damage
- Spinal cord injury, which may cause paralysis
- Stroke and seizures
- Tinnitus (ringing noise in the ears)
Anesthesia errors can have tragic outcomes. In the aftermath, victims are left to wonder what might have happened if the anesthesiologist had provided an adequate level of care. If you have been a victim of an anesthesiologist’s error, bringing a lawsuit for medical malpractice here in Florida may provide some compensation in one or more of the following areas:
- Loss of consortium - In other words, the loss of affection, loss of comfort, loss of companionship, and loss of sexual relations that would be a natural part of the marriage relationship. Typically, these damages are awarded in those cases where permanent or life-changing injuries have been suffered.
- Loss of earning capacity - If your ability to perform your job is affected, either temporarily or permanently, you can be compensated for this loss of earning capacity.
- Lost wages - When an anesthesiology error causes you to miss work in order to recover, you may collect compensation for lost wages.
- Medical expenses - Any current and some future medical expenses associated with the error—including the cost of doctor visits, hospital stays, OT, PT, prescription medication, or other like expenses—may be a part of your compensation.
- Pain and suffering - Anesthesia error victims can receive complication for the pain they’ve experienced, especially with cases of anesthesia awareness. This includes compensation for all kinds of emotional distress, fear, anxiety and other kinds of mental suffering.
- Other damages - Other damages may apply. Your attorney can help you understand what to expect based on the details of your case.
Make sure you have a medical malpractice attorney on your side who knows how to help you pursue your anesthesiologist error malpractice case. Hannon Legal Group has years of experience standing up for people just like you right here in Miami, Florida. Contact us today for a free consultation. Call (305) 358-3109 to speak with an anesthesiology malpractice lawyer or complete and submit a contact form.