In 1846, in Boston, Massachusetts, the first public demonstration of anesthesia took place—known as “ether day.” Since that time, technology has made anesthesia much safer, although the human element in the administration and management of anesthesia can sometimes lead to adverse outcomes. A 2019 NCBI article studied patient databases between 2007 and 2014 to determine the number of anesthesia errors within that time. A total of 17,116 anesthesia errors were reported, with 131 reported deaths resulting from a mistake with anesthesia.
More of the deaths were in teaching hospitals than in non-teaching hospitals, and it was noted that specific issues, such as electrolyte and fluid disorders in the patient predisposed to increased risk. Whatever your situation, if you or a loved one was injured due to an anesthesia error, contact The Brothers Law Firm—we have worked on thousands of medical malpractice cases involving virtually every type of healthcare professional, including anesthesiologists.
Patients who must undergo general anesthesia are usually at least a bit concerned—and rightfully so. The anesthesiologist’s job is to administer the medications, monitor the patient during the procedure, and generally ensure everything is going as it should. The anesthesiologist must also explain the type of anesthesia that will be used to the patient, the risks and benefits, and get informed consent from the patient.
While most anesthesia risks are minor and temporary, in some cases, the anesthesiologist can make a mistake that causes a more severe problem, such as breathing problems during or after surgery, long-term memory loss, or even death. The most common types of anesthesia errors include:
- Failure to monitor the patient during the procedure
- Failure to ensure proper positioning of the patient
- Administration of the wrong type of anesthesia
- A delay in the delivery of anesthesia
- Administration of too much or too little anesthesia
- Failure to recognize adverse drug reactions
- Failure to recognize an allergic reaction
- Failure to discuss the anesthesia to be administered to the patient
- The use of defective equipment
The consequences of any of the above errors will vary depending on the specific patient and the particular procedure. According to a Medscape Malpractice Report from 2015, most lawsuits against anesthesiologists result from abnormal injuries, airway mishaps, cardiac arrest during surgery, overdose, and in-hospital infections. Nerve damage, cardiopulmonary arrest, and organ damage are the most common injuries related to anesthesia errors.
General Anesthesia Causes More Medical Errors
General anesthesia (rather than local or regional) is related to anesthesia errors nearly two-thirds of the time. When anesthesia errors with general anesthesia occur, the result is death about one-fourth of the time, nerve injury (more than 20 percent of the time), permanent brain damage (about 10 percent of the time), and tooth damage (less than 10 percent of the time). The remainder of anesthesia errors can cause such issues as:
- Chronic pain
- Mental confusion that lingers
- Larynx damage
- Allergic reaction to the anesthesia
- Pneumonia or other types of breathing issues
- Stroke and blood clots
- Heart attacks
Although it is rare, some people report regaining consciousness during the surgical procedure, which can be a very traumatic event. Patients who have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney problems, lung conditions, allergies to anesthesia, a history of adverse reactions to anesthesia, or those who are obese are more likely to experience an adverse reaction to anesthesia; however, this does not preclude a mistake made by the anesthesiologist.
Why Do Anesthesiologists Make Negligent Errors?
Unfortunately, anesthesia complications and errors occur much more often than we know; however, most of us do not hear about these errors unless it affects them or someone close to them. The top three reasons anesthesiologists make errors that can cause long-term damage to the patient include:
- Lack of communication between staff members due to a rushed surgery, fatigue on the part of the anesthesiologist, or personality conflicts between staff can have dire outcomes for patients.
- The anesthesiologist may not be properly trained, could be lacking in experience, or might not even be appropriately certified for the procedure at hand.
- The anesthesiologist may fail to read the patient’s chart thoroughly; therefore, they may not be aware of an allergy or medical condition that could interact with anesthesia.
Medical Malpractice vs. Unforeseeable Result
It is essential to understand that not every bad outcome from anesthesia administration results from medical negligence. In some cases, the individual may have unknown medical issues or allergies that badly interact with the anesthesia. Many unforeseeable consequences may have nothing to do with medical malpractice or medical negligence. To determine whether the anesthesiologist was negligent, the following questions must be answered:
- Would another anesthesiologist, given the same set of circumstances, have acted in the same manner?
- Would another anesthesiologist have been able to foresee the harm suffered, given the same circumstances?
- Could the anesthesiologist reasonably have taken alternative actions that would have prevented the harm?
- Was the risk of such an alternative greater than the risk of the actions taken by the anesthesiologist?
The anesthesiologist will be judged against the “reasonable” standard of care that another anesthesiologist would have exercised, given the same circumstances.
How The Brothers Law Firm Can Help
Building a medical malpractice case against an anesthesiologist that will stand up in a court of law will require expert witnesses, comprehensive evidence, and possibly the anesthesiologist’s surgery notes. In a situation like this, you must have the most experienced medical malpractice attorney in your corner, from start to finish. Medical malpractice claims can be complex, requiring an attorney who has the knowledge and skill set necessary to negotiate, along with the trial experience to litigate the matter, when necessary. Attorney John Brothers have that level of experience, knowledge, and skill.
At The Brothers Law Firm, we will vigorously prosecute your anesthesia error claim to maximize your recovery. We have a deep understanding of which issues to focus on, along with strong relationships with highly credentialed expert witnesses. At The Brothers Law Firm, we have the resources to take on a large company/hospital and insurance company—both of which will be doing everything in their power to avoid responsibility for your injuries due to medical negligence. Contact The Brothers Law Firm today for a comprehensive evaluation of your anesthesia error claim.