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Anesthesia Malpractice


What Is Anesthesia Malpractice?

When you go into a hospital for surgery and certain procedures, you will be given anesthesia. Anesthesia prevents you from feeling the pain associated with having your body cut open or tubes placed down your throat. There are different types of anesthesia and different levels of health care providers who administer anesthesia. Before anesthesia is given to you, it is important that you understand what type of anesthesia you will be given, who will give it you, and how you will be monitored.

Unfortunately, anesthesia malpractice happens quite frequently. There are 40 million anesthetics given each year in the United States.  Studies have shown that anesthesia malpractice occurs in 2.7% of procedures. If anesthesia errors occur, the injuries can be horrendous and life changing.  

What Are the Types of Anesthesia?

There are many types of anesthesia. These are:

  • Topical Anesthesia- Often used in removal of skin moles or skin cancer. This anesthesia can be a cream or a spray that numbs the skin so that a skin sample can be taken. 
  • Regional Anesthesia-Often done by an injection of a numbing agent. Dental procedures involve regional anesthesia to numb the gums and teeth. 
  • Twilight-Most often used for procedures like colonoscopies, endoscopies, and other scoping. You will "go to sleep" but only for a small amount of time.
  • General anesthesia-Used for more major surgeries. You will be intubated (tube down your throat). General anesthesia puts you completely out and you will not wake up until the surgery is over.

General anesthesia is the most dangerous type and where most malpractice happens. You are completely out and have no way to express any pain or discomfort. Your blood pressure can go down to dangerous levels as well as your oxygen levels.

It is the responsibility of the anesthesia doctor to explain the risks of anesthesia so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

Who Can Administer Anesthesia?

It may come as a surprise that you don't have to be a medical doctor to administer anesthesia. Doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and nurse anesthetists are permitted to do so. This does not mean that these health care providers are not qualified to give anesthesia and monitor patients. But, they are not medical doctors who may have more specialized training.

In many cases, a medical doctor may give the anesthesia but allow a nurse to monitor vital signs. There are cases where the nurse does not recognize signs of trouble until its too late. there can be unusual complications like malignant hyperthermia which is discussed elsewhere on this website.   

What Are Common Anesthesia Injuries? 

Anoxic Brain Injury: This type of brain injury happens when the brain receives no oxygen. Anesthesia errors can lead to anoxic brain injuries if the medical team fails to monitor the patient's oxygen levels adequately during surgery or if there are complications that interrupt oxygen supply.

Hypoxic Brain Injury: Similar to anoxic injuries but less severe, hypoxic brain injuries occur when the brain receives some, but not enough, oxygen. This can result from improper anesthesia administration, leading to limited oxygen supply to the brain during medical procedures.

Stroke: Strokes can be a complication of anesthesia malpractice if there is a failure to diagnose or properly manage a patient's pre-existing conditions that increase stroke risk, such as high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation. Additionally, errors in medication administration or surgical errors during procedures aimed at preventing or treating strokes can also lead to this outcome.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): While TBIs are more commonly associated with physical trauma, anesthesia errors can lead to conditions that mimic the effects of a TBI. For instance, if a patient experiences severe hypoxia or anoxia due to anesthesia errors, the resulting brain damage can be similar to that of a traumatic brain injury.

Brain Infections: Improper sterilization techniques or failure to diagnose and treat infections promptly can lead to severe brain infections like meningitis or encephalitis. These conditions can result from or be exacerbated by anesthesia malpractice, leading to significant brain damage.

Brain Damage due to Aspiration: If a patient vomits and aspirates the vomit into their lungs while under anesthesia and the medical team fails to act promptly, this can lead to hypoxia and subsequent brain damage due to the lack of oxygen.

Intubation Errors: Improper placement of a breathing tube during intubation can lead to reduced oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in anoxic or hypoxic brain damage.

Call An Experienced Anesthesia Malpractice Lawyer

Frank Spector Law has over 30 years experience with anesthesia malpractice. I have recovered millions of dollars for my clients who have suffered brain damage, malignant hyperthermia, strokes, and aspiration. I can help you too.

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