When surgery is necessary, anesthesia can be a great way to ensure the patient’s comfort during the procedure. Most of the time, anesthesia is used without a problem. But when a person “goes under,” there is always a potential risk of complications. Even though anesthesia errors from medical malpractice are rare, a small mistake can result in catastrophic consequences.
Risks Associated with Different Types of Anesthesia
Modern anesthesia practices are safer than ever before, but there’s always a chance that something could go wrong. Here are some of the possible complications or problems that can occur from different types of anesthesia:
- Local Anesthesia: When local anesthesia is used, it means that a small amount of medication is injected into the target area to numb that part of the body. This type of anesthesia has the lowest risk compared to other types of anesthesia. Potential risks include pain, discomfort, or itching at the injection site.
- Regional Anesthesia: A larger part of the body can be numbed using anesthesia to avoid the need for general anesthesia. One example is an epidural, when a patient is numbed from the waist down. Potential risks include nerve damage, injury from improper needle placement, or headaches from the medication.
- Monitored Sedation: The patient is administered medication to decrease anxiety and manage pain. Sometimes, sedation is referred to as a “light” form of anesthesia because the patient remains conscious but might fall asleep. Breathing is maintained, so there is no need for intubation. Potential risks include breathing problems, stroke, heart attack, or a negative reaction to the medication.
- General Anesthesia: This type of anesthesia causes you to become unconscious, and it is the type of anesthesia that carries the biggest risks. Serious complications are rare, but might include breathing problems, brain damage, malignant hyperthermia, stroke, nausea and vomiting, or postoperative cognitive dysfunction. If mistakes are made, it’s possible for general anesthesia to even result in death.
How Brain Damage Can Occur From Anesthesia
If anesthesia medications are used improperly or the doctors fail to monitor the patient, it’s possible for a brain injury to occur. These complications can often be classified as anesthesia errors from medical malpractice.
There are several ways brain damage can happen while a person is under anesthesia:
- Lack of Oxygen: Breathing issues or improper intubation can lower blood oxygen levels and starve the brain of the oxygen that is needed. As a result, brain cells are damaged and a brain injury can occur.
- Reduced Blood Flow: If the blood flow is reduced to the brain, then it can cause complications and brain injury.
- Interaction with Medication: Some patients have a negative interaction with the medications being used, causing a brain injury.
- Failure to Monitor: Doctors should continuously monitor patients, including vitals and oxygen levels. If a patient isn’t monitored correctly, then it’s possible that potential complications could have been avoided by adjusting the medications.
When medical malpractice occurs and a lawyer can prove it in court, it’s possible for victims and their families to receive compensation for their injuries. Here are a few case examples where patients and their families filed successful lawsuits when mistakes with anesthesia resulted in brain damage:
- In Munoz v. Sarkaria, a teenager was awarded $9.38 million in a settlement after he went under anesthesia for a knee surgery and sustained a brain injury.
- Angela Davis’ family received compensation of $8.3 million for a medical malpractice suit. The anesthesiologist accidentally injected her with the wrong medication, causing permanent brain damage.
- In McCarley v. Anesthesia Serv. Med. Grp., nearly $11 million was awarded for an anesthesia-related brain injury.
- Emmalyn Nguyen died after anesthesia for cosmetic surgery. The family filed a lawsuit, then amended it to a wrongful death suit claiming the doctor, a nurse anesthetist, and an RN were at fault.
These cases are just a few of the many others that have occurred across the country.
What to Do if You Think Anesthesia Malpractice Occurred
If you or a loved one recently had anesthesia and you suspect medical malpractice, then the most important thing you can do is find an attorney who has experience with personal injury cases. Rosenblum Law is here to help. We invite you to schedule a free consultation so you can learn more about personal injury services to seek compensation for your case. Call us today at 888-235-9021.
Most of the time, side effects occur immediately after anesthesia. However, complications can continue to exhibit symptoms long after the surgery is over.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of serious complications from anesthesia is less than one percent and the overall mortality risk is less than one in 100,000.
Your personal injury attorney will build the case by consulting with expert medical witnesses to prove negligence in the operating room.