Each year, over 40 million patients in North America receive anesthesia. Most of the time, it is administered during surgery to put the patient in an unconscious or semi-conscious state through the use of certain drugs, medications, and/or gasses. Immense responsibility falls on the shoulders of the anesthesiologist to ensure that the patient has the correct dosage and to monitor the patient’s vital signs and level of oxygenation. In addition, when/if the anesthesiologist detects a problem, they are supposed to communicate this immediately to the surgeon so the proper adjustments can be made and no permanent harm is done to the patient.
Anesthesiology medical errors typically occur while the surgery is taking place, and are identified and corrected before the patient wakes up. For this reason, most of these problems are never learned about by the patient or their family unless the patient develops serious complications following the surgery. There are cases, however, in which the patient identifies problems long after the surgery that can be traced back to the faulty administration of the anesthesia. These issues can range from minor complications all the way up to death. When something like this happens, the family should retain the counsel of an experienced Chicago anesthesia errors attorney to help them get to the bottom of what caused the problem and hold the responsible parties accountable.
Common Causes of Anesthesia Errors
Causes of anesthesiology errors vary depending on the health of the patient, the type of anesthesia being administered, and a number of other factors. Some common reasons for a patient to develop a complication during or after the surgery include:
- Failure to Thoroughly Review the Patient’s Medical History: Most people that are in good health will usually do okay with general anesthesia as long as all the administration procedures are followed properly. However, if a patient has health issues such as heart, lung or kidney problems, they may be at a higher risk of something going wrong. It is the responsibility of the anesthesiologist to be intimately familiar with the patient’s health history before deciding on the type and amount of dosage.
- Intubation Errors: Proper intubation is critical to ensure that the patient can breathe freely during surgery. If the anesthesiologist makes an intubation error either during or after surgery, it can lead to serious complications.
- Anesthesia Dosage Errors: Too much anesthesia may keep the patient sedated far too long; potentially leading to a coma or a brain injury. Too little anesthesia can cause anesthesia awareness; a condition in which the patient is fully or partially awake during surgery, potentially experiencing pain and trauma. According to the National Institute of Health, between one and two out of every thousand patients receiving anesthesia experience anesthesia awareness.
- Monitoring/Communication Errors: Anesthesiologists must pay close attention to the patient’s level of consciousness and vital signs throughout surgery. Just as important, they must communicate this information to the person performing surgery so everyone is properly informed of what is happening with the patient at all times.
- Severe Burns from Anesthesia-Related Fires: Anesthesiologists use highly flammable chemicals in conjunction with oxygen, while surgeons are increasingly relying on electrocautery devices. If an anesthesiologist does not follow proper safety protocols, fires can break out in the operating room that result in severe burns or death of the patient.
When one or more errors occur during surgery, it can result in complications such as tracheal damage, cardiovascular injuries, spinal cord injuries (leading to loss of bodily function and even paralysis), traumatic brain injuries, comas and death.
If you or a loved one has experienced complications following a surgery, contact our Chicago anesthesiology error lawyers today to schedule your free consultation.