Anesthesia Malpractice – Woke up in the Operating Table?

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Medical Malpractice, Anesthetic Errors

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Let’s start this blog on anesthesia malpractice with real anesthesia malpractice cases examples that would make you numb.

Before undergoing surgery in 2006, Sherman Sizemore was given paralytic medication. But they didn’t administer any anesthetic that would have put him to sleep. Sizemore suffered in agony for 16 minutes before the medical staff discovered their error!

Leaving the hospital, Sherman began to experience nightmares and flashbacks, that made him commit suicide two weeks later. Investigations reported that apart from the shocking anesthesia malpractice, Sizemore’s doctors attempted to hide the blunder by giving him dementia medication.

Let’s hear the experience of another patient, a victim of anesthesia malpractice.

“I woke up in the middle of gallbladder removal surgery. I couldn’t look down, but I know I was cut open on the operating table by the bloody knife and vacuum tube in the surgeon’s hand. The thing that bothered me most, though, was the fact that there was a tube down my throat, and it was really difficult to breathe. There were a lot of voices saying, ‘OMG’ and ‘Please don’t move’ — some very loudly and near the edge of panic. Finally, the doctor yelled for someone to give me another dose of anesthetic, and bonk, I was out like a light.”

The above-mentioned examples are of anesthesia awareness which is a common anesthesia malpractice prevalent in the United States.

Imagine undergoing surgery while seeing, hearing, and experiencing everything. Although it seems like something from a horror film, anesthetic errors do occur in real life.

What is anesthesia?

Utilizing medications called anesthetics to block pain during the surgery and some other medical procedures is known as anesthesia. Anesthesia is a pharmacologically induced state that protects patients from stress-induced complications from the body’s biological responses while allowing them to undergo medical procedures by blocking sensations like pain.

Anesthesia could be used for minor procedures like root canals or major surgeries like amputations and transplantations.

Anesthesiologists are in charge of continuously observing the patient’s condition in operating rooms. This entails keeping an eye on the patient’s vital signs while administering an anesthetic to lessen their discomfort and level of consciousness. They are also in charge of overseeing the post-operative assessment and the patient’s level of comfort.

How dangerous is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is generally safe when administered under proper medical standards. Hence anesthesia errors are classified as anesthesia malpractice under the law.

Despite the fact that anesthetic is generally safe, its use nonetheless causes issues. As a result of anesthesiology malpractice, resulting from the negligence of medical professionals, patients are severely harmed or killed in certain situations.

Anesthesia malpractice can result from a variety of mistakes made by anesthesiologists, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and hospitals.

Types of Anesthesia 

There are three types of anesthesia commonly used for surgical procedures

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body. It might be used on a tooth that needs to be pulled or on a small area around a wound that needs stitches. You are awake and alert during local anesthesia.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia is used for larger areas of the body such as an arm, a leg, or everything below the waist. You may be awake during the procedure, or you may be given sedation. Regional anesthesia may be used during childbirth, a Cesarean section (C-section), or minor surgeries.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia affects the whole body. It makes you unconscious and unable to move. It is used during major surgeries, such as heart surgery, brain surgery, back surgery, and organ transplants.

Which anesthesia is safest?

Any type of anesthesia can turn out dangerous, if not administered correctly with the right dosage.

There are several distinct ways that anesthesia can function, depending on the procedure being performed and the medication combinations being employed. The possibility for difficulties during a medical operation is increased by the hazards associated with the various drug combinations

What are the common anesthesia errors?

The below-mentioned are the most commonly reported anesthesia errors, arising due to medical negligence of the medical professionals in a surgical procedure.

  • Anesthesia dosage error
  • Dental anesthesia malpractice
  • Patient monitoring failures
  • Late anesthesia administration
  • Failing to respond to negative drug responses
  • Dangerously prolonged sedation
  • Failure to recognize and respond to anesthesia complications
  • Failure to properly inform a patient of instructions before, during, or after the procedure
  • Faulty equipment
  • Shutting off the alarm on the pulse oximeter
  • Failure to intubate

Anesthesia Awareness 

A patient who is awake during surgery but is paralyzed by an anesthetic agent and unable to move or speak is said to be in “anesthesia awareness.”

Unfortunately, patients may be unable to breathe, endure severe pain, feel the operation being performed on them, and possibly feel quite terrified throughout this period.

Being aware of oneself while under anesthesia can be a terrifying experience where the patient may even be unable to communicate his situation. In rare instances, they might even experience post-operative pain.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and sleep issues are just a few of the severe emotional issues that anesthesia awareness can lead to. Such situations are considered anesthesia malpractice under the law.

Before moving into the details of anesthesia malpractice, let’s get to know about the causes of anesthesia errors.

Root Causes of Anesthesia Errors

Since patient data are continuously collected and updated while a patient is under anesthesia, communication is a crucial aspect of the operating room environment. The three important causes of anesthesia errors are as follows.

  • Unavoidable injury due to the inherent risks of medical procedures.
  • Lack of communication among the surgery team, with patients, and their families.
  • Negligence of the medical professionals involved in the surgical procedure

The above-listed are the main causes of the majority of anesthetic errors, which can cause morbidity or even mortality.

Complications of Anesthesia Malpractice

Anesthesia malpractice can lead to many complications in the victims. Some of the commonly reported aftermaths are given below.

  • Delirium following surgery or cognitive impairment
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Having trouble waking up as a result of respiratory problems or oxygen instability
  • Psychosis brought on by hypoxia
  • Loss of feeling
  • Oxygen deprivation & brain damage
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Irreversible nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Can you sue a anesthesiologist?

You may be entitled to financial compensation for anesthesia malpractice if anesthesiology mistakes caused you or a loved one harm. If an anesthesiologist indulges in actions that go beyond what a regular doctor would do, they can be held accountable for your losses via anesthesia malpractice claims.

The injured victim may file a medical malpractice claim to seek damages, just like with other medical errors. The family of a victim of a deadly anesthesia error may be entitled to obtain wrongful death damages to hold individuals accountable for their acts.

The central and peripheral nerve systems would be damaged in the majority of anesthesia malpractice cases. Such anesthesia injuries would need ongoing care, therapy, or even corrective surgery. The victims may need life-long support for the movement and other daily needs.

Anesthesia lawsuit cases would help such victims to have financial support for the damages they sustain and for future treatment and care they require.

How to prove an anesthesia error? 

The plaintiff in an anesthesia malpractice litigation must prove the doctor violated the standard of care, which resulted in the damage. Based on what another reasonable anesthesiologist would have done in similar circumstances, the standard of care is established.

A medical anesthesia expert may testify before the jury to assist them in determining if the anesthesiologist departed from the accepted standard of care.

Experienced anesthesia malpractice attorneys with the help of precise medical record reviews of the claimants could prove anesthesia errors with ease. To ascertain whether there was anesthesia malpractice, the lawyers will dissect the medical records, x-rays, and other sources of information in consultation with anesthesiologists, CRNAs, and other doctors.

LezDo techmed, the best medical record review outsourcing company has reviewed umpteen medical records under anesthesia medical malpractice claims. We analyze the bulky medical records and cherry-pick the data to prove that there is an anesthesia error element involved in the case, causing damages to the claimant.

With our expert medical record review reports anesthesia malpractice lawyers to help the injured victims and their loved ones with the best possible anesthesia malpractice settlements. The following damages are covered under anesthesia lawsuit settlements.

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages or earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability
  • Punitive damages

Compared to the majority of other medical disciplines, anesthesiology claims have occurred less frequently over the years. The mortality rate from anesthetic errors fell precipitously from 1 in 6000 administrations to 1 in 200,000. Thanks to the medical professionals for taking extra care while administering anesthesia, thereby safeguarding the patients from deadly injuries.

Another reason for the decline in anesthesia errors and anesthesia malpractice lawsuits is the  ASA Closed Claims Project Initiative. The project was launched in 1985 in order to examine malpractice in anesthesia, identify potential areas of concern, and treat and avoid future incidents.

The Closed Claims Project of the ASA examines and evaluates closed claim files of American professional liability insurance providers. There are state-wide organizations among the insurance companies taking part in the project. These include private, physician-owned businesses as well as businesses that provide anesthesiologists with insurance throughout several states.

Although anesthesia has become safer over time, there are still hazards involved. The greatest and most secure patient care is the goal of every anesthetic specialist. Precautionary measures, proper communication, and providing standard care to patients during surgical procedures can reduce anesthesia malpractice claims to a greater extent.

Patients’ most recent medical history and allergy history should be available to the anesthesiologist for administering anesthesia without any side effects.

Do you have any experience with anesthesia malpractice? Share your stories in the comment section. Sail with us for trending medico-legal litigations.

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