Anesthesia is a necessary part of many surgical procedures. But it comes with inherent risks, many resulting from human error and mistakes.
Whether you woke from surgery with blatant injuries or a nagging suspicion that something just wasn’t right, you should know your rights to anesthesia errors.
What Is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medicine to prevent pain during surgery and other procedures.
There are three main types of anesthesia:
- General anesthesia – puts the patient into a state of controlled unconsciousness;
- Regional anesthesia – only the part or region of the body being operated or worked on is anesthetized (a typical example is a spinal block); and
- Local anesthesia – the drug is administered to a tiny part of the body (for example, dental procedures).
Anesthesia mistakes can happen with any type and dosage of anesthesia.
Possible Anesthesia Complications and Injuries
Anesthesia complications and injuries can vary widely depending on the type of anesthesia and the error made. The most common complications from anesthesia are:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Post-surgical pain,
- Temporary mental confusion (i.e., delirium),
- Sore throat,
- Damaged larynx,
- Respiratory issues,
- Brain damage or stroke,
- Anesthesia awareness (i.e., the person regains consciousness during the procedure),
- Allergic reaction (i.e., anaphylaxis),
- Tooth damage,
- Blood clots,
- Nerve injury,
- Heart attack, and
As long as this list is, it is not exhaustive. Many other complications or injuries can happen due to anesthesia complications and errors. Many minor complications will resolve themselves quickly and without lasting side effects.
However, significant complications can cause permanent, life-altering injuries. If you believe you suffered an anesthesia injury, consult a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your rights and options.
Common Types of Mistakes and Errors
Just as there are common injuries from anesthesia, we routinely see common mistakes.
Administering Improper Dosage
Administering the improper dose of anesthesia can mean either giving too little or too much. Some anesthesia malpractice cases involve administering too much anesthesia.
Anesthesia Monitoring Mistakes
With the administration of anesthesia comes a significant amount of necessary monitoring of the patient. The anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring the patient’s vital signs throughout the procedure.
Failure to Properly Intubate
Repeated and failed attempts to properly insert the breathing tube into the patient can cause significant damage to the patient’s throat, airway, and larynx. Intubating mistakes can even cause the patient’s airway to swell to a level closing the airway and blocking oxygen to the patient’s body. This can result in brain damage and heart attack.
Post-Anesthesia Care Errors
Many people naively assume once they are out of surgery, their risk of anesthesia complications disappears. While it does significantly decrease, some complications can arise during post-anesthesia care.
One of the worst and most severe post-anesthesia complications is a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury that often results in impaired consciousness. Other mistakes and errors include:
- Failing to provide the patient with instructions regarding preparation for surgery (e.g., not to eat or drink for a certain amount of time),
- Failing to confirm the position of the tube in the trachea,
- Failure to properly extubate the patient (i.e., remove the tube), and
- Failing to recognize complications as they arise.
Anesthesia mistakes can lead to severe, life-changing injuries. No matter your circumstances, you should know your rights if you were harmed by anesthesia or during the anesthetization process.
If your anesthesiologist lawsuit is successful, you may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for their actual, calculable losses incurred due to their injuries. Typical economic damages include:
- Medical bills,
- Lost wages, and
- Lost value of household services.
Medical bills can quickly pile up when dealing with anesthesia injuries, especially if you cannot work or perform household tasks. As a result, your out-of-pocket expenses can be astronomical. The amount of economic damages you may be entitled to will depend on your circumstances.
In Maryland, a plaintiff may seek compensation for non-economic damages to compensate them for their injuries’ negative impact on their life. These damages are subjective and unique to each individual. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Emotional distress, and
- Loss of consortium.
Non-economic damages can be more challenging to quantify because they represent intangible losses open to interpretation. It is crucial to have a knowledgeable and seasoned medical malpractice attorney advocating for you to ensure you receive these damages for your anesthesia lawsuit.
Proving an Anesthesiologist’s Negligence
Medical malpractice encompasses many forms of medical negligence and doctor or provider error. While anesthesia lawsuit cases are often against the anesthesiologist, they can be brought against doctors, nurses, hospitals, or other providers involved in the patient’s care.
Most anesthesia lawsuits are brought on the theory of negligence, meaning that the healthcare provider failed to exercise the degree of care and skill of the average healthcare provider within the same specialty.
As the plaintiff, you have the burden to prove your case. To establish a medical malpractice claim, you must establish the following:
- The applicable standard of care,
- That the anesthesiologist or other medical professional breached that standard of care, and
- That you suffered harm as a result of that breach.
To prove these elements, your attorney will hire a medical expert to show these elements were met. An expert medical witness will consider things such as your pre-surgical risk factors and the surgeon’s and anesthesiologist’s operative notes and try to determine what happened during the surgery.
Under Maryland law, before you can file a lawsuit, you must file a certificate of a qualified expert with the appropriate Maryland authorities within a requisite timeframe. Failure to do so may result in your case being dismissed.
While you are not required to have an attorney, it is essential to hire an experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyer who can assist you in finding and hiring the appropriate qualified medical expert.
Maryland Med Mal Lawyers
Anesthesiologist malpractice happens. These mistakes and errors can have drastic effects that can significantly impact your life and your family. If you were injured by anesthesia during a medical procedure, the attorneys at Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, LLC, are here to help.. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.