When you seek medical treatment, you depend on your medical provider to provide the care that you need at the level that is required. While medical malpractice can occur at any level, there are some areas in which medical malpractice is more common and more likely to occur. One of the most common areas where medical malpractice occurs is anesthesia.
Anesthesia is a subspecialty of medicine that involves the administration of medications that prevents you from feeling pain during medical procedures, such as surgery. An anesthesiologist usually administers these drugs, and there are different variations of medications, which can provide everything from localized numbing to induced consciousness.
Any time anesthesia is used, even in ideal circumstances, there is always a risk of complications. Such complications can often occur for no reason at all and do not necessarily mean that something went wrong. Errors, however, are different from complications. Errors occur when someone does something that causes bad things to happen that otherwise should not have happened. If there are errors, you can suffer minor side effects like vomiting, nausea, or pain, or you may have severe life-altering effects or even die. When there is negligence by a medical professional – or an anesthesiologist involved – you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
The Different Kinds of Anesthesia
There are three different kinds of anesthesia that are used in the medical field:
- Local anesthesia – which numbs a specific area, such as a tooth
- Regional anesthesia – which numbs a larger body section, as an example an epidural or spinal block
- General anesthesia – which causes unconsciousness or puts the patient to sleep
The specific kind of medical procedure that is being done plays a role in the kind of anesthesia that is used. There are different kinds of medical malpractice claims involving anesthesia.
Here are a few examples:
Post-surgical errors – Before an individual has surgery, the anesthesiologist must talk with the patient and review his or her medical history. The patient usually must refrain from food and drink before the procedure. If the medical professional doesn’t communicate the pre-surgery instructions, a patient may continue to eat or drink normally, or may not otherwise be prepared for surgery, which puts him or her at greater risk for injury. If the medical records are not properly reviewed by the anesthesiologist, including an evaluation of a patient’s allergies, a drug reaction could result, complex drug interactions could occur, or other avoidable problems could take place.
Intubation and extubation mistakes – when general anesthesia is administered, the muscles in a patient’s body are paralyzed, so breathing is difficult. To restore oxygen flow to the airways, the anesthesiologist will insert a breathing tube in the windpipe, which is called intubation. If the tube isn’t placed properly, it can cause serious complications like a stroke, nerve damage of the neck or esophagus, a perforated trachea, anoxic or hypoxic brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, arrhythmia, vocal cord paralysis, and/or injuries to the mouth, lips, or teeth. When the breathing tube is removed – known as extubation – the doctor must make sure that the patient can breathe effectively on his or her own before the tube is taken out.
Dosage errors – The anesthesiologist must make sure that there is not too much – or too little – anesthesia administered to the patient. The patient shouldn’t wake up during the procedure, and too much anesthesia can cause organ damage or lead to a coma.
Aspiration – When a patient cannot swallow while under general anesthesia, they can vomit liquid or food into their own lungs and trachea. The loss of reflexes can cause the patient to aspirate, which can lead to pneumonia or even death.
The anesthesiologist must make sure that the patient is properly monitored at all times. Any monitoring equipment should be used properly and not turned off until it is appropriate to do so. If the errors of an anesthesiologist have caused you injuries, you should speak with a Los Angeles, medical malpractice lawyer about pursuing a medical malpractice claim. Contact the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. today for a free case review.