We put our trust and our health in our doctors’ hands anytime we seek medical treatment, but at no time are we more vulnerable or more completely at the mercy of the doctor and hospital than when we are put under general anesthesia. An unconscious patient cannot communicate with the doctor if something goes wrong but must rely entirely on the surgeon, anesthesiologist and nursing staff to perform their duties properly while carefully monitoring the patient for any signs of distress. Anesthesia errors are serious and can cause pain, trauma, permanent injury or death. The lawyers at Palmer | Lopez help injury victims and their families recover full and fair compensation for injuries caused by anesthesia mistakes made during surgical procedures.
Types of Anesthesia, Errors and Injuries
There are three different types of anesthesia which may be used during a surgery or invasive medical procedure: local, regional and general. Local and regional anesthetics are used to numb a certain area or part of the body so the doctor can perform a procedure without pain to the patient. Improperly administered local or regional anesthesia can result in pain or a severe allergic reaction.
For most surgeries or other invasive procedures such as endoscopies, the patient is placed under general anesthesia. Under general anesthesia, a patient is either semi-conscious or completely unconscious. General anesthesia poses the most risks to the patient of any type of anesthesia and is one of the main concerns regarding the possibility of surgical error.
General anesthesia involves the delivery of three different class of drugs, each of which must be measured for the individual patient and delivered with precision to prevent harmful effects. These types of drugs are:
Hypnotics – designed to make the patient unconscious and unaware of the procedure. If too little is given, the patient may be aware of the procedure and traumatized. If too much is given, the patient may suffer long-term effects from brain damage.
Relaxants – These drugs soften and relax the muscles so a surgeon can access the surgery site or perform a scope. With too little relaxants, the doctor won’t be able to access the site. With too much, the patient’s heartbeat can be dangerously slowed.
Analgesics – These drugs are administered so that the patient does not experience pain during the procedure. If the wrong amount of analgesics are given, the patient may experience tremendous pain yet be rendered incapable by hypnotics and relaxants to communicate this fact to the doctor and nursing staff.
Other injuries which may occur due to anesthesia errors include:
- Intubation Injuries – These injuries range from chipped teeth to life-threatening esophageal injuries.
- Nausea – Nausea after a procedure can be especially dangerous and even deadly if an unconscious or semi-conscious patient aspirates vomit and is not being appropriately monitored by hospital or nursing staff.
- Seizures, brain damage and death
Duties to the patient begin even before surgery. The patient must be given proper instructions regarding fasting (to prevent nausea-induced injuries), and hospital staff must know and understand the patient’s medical history, including other medications the patient is taking and other conditions the patient has such as asthma which could pose a special risk to anesthesia. the anesthesiologist must carefully calculate the proper amount of drugs to administer based on patient age, weight and many other factors.
During anesthesia, the anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist and other medical staff must take care to monitor blood pressure, brain activity and patient vitals for any signs of distress or complication. The patient must be intubated correctly and in a timely manner as well.
Get Help after an Anesthesia Error from Experienced Tampa Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you experienced undue pain or trauma during a surgery or other medical procedure, or if a loved one was permanently disabled or worse and you believe an anesthesia error at a Tampa medical facility may have been the cause, call a Tampa medical malpractice lawyer at Palmer | Lopez at 813-506-5651 for help in determining whether you may have a claim against the doctor or hospital responsible.