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Can Surgical Anesthesia Errors Be Prevented?

Jun 17, 2016 - Personal Injury by

In many ways, anesthesia makes surgery possible, since few patients would agree to undergo any type of surgical procedure without some form of pain management. In fact, whether it involved chewing coca leaves, ingesting herbs or undergoing acupuncture, anesthesia has been used as long as humans have existed on earth.

Things have come a long way since early pain management practices, and today’s anesthesia is generally very safe. However, the Mayo Clinic presents a long list of general anesthesia risks that patients can face.

Those often-unavoidable risks pertain largely to existing health factors, histories of past adverse reactions and histories of smoking or alcohol use. However, our Tuscaloosa personal injury lawyers have seen cases when anesthesia-related injuries might have been prevented with appropriate medical care.

Anesthesia Errors Can Occur During Any Surgical Procedure

Any procedure that requires pain management can be subject to anesthesia errors — whether it involves major surgery in a hospital, routine procedures performed in surgical centers or possibly even relatively minor care delivered in the doctor’s office.

While it is certainly possible for patients to have unpredictable bad reactions to anesthesia, the following are examples of negligent acts:

  • Failure to obtain accurate medical histories: Knowing that a patient has drug allergies, is a long-term smoker or drinker or suffers from any number of medical conditions can affect the choice of anesthesia or even prohibit the use of anesthesia altogether.
  • Insufficient patient monitoring during procedures: Anesthesiologists and anesthetists have to do much more than keep patients asleep or pain-free. They must monitor patients’ reactions to the medicine, along with every aspect of the surgery. Failure to notice issues can lead to failure to take action that helps ensure patient safety.
  • Dosage errors: Naturally, overdoses of medication have serious consequences. However, anesthesiologists must also ensure that patients do not wake up during surgery. These cases are relatively rare, but even if the surgery is successful, patients can be left with severe, life-long psychological trauma.
  • Deficient post-surgical care: Without proper monitoring after surgery, patients can face severe risks. Careless post-surgical management, such as negligent administration of post-surgery medications, failure to monitor post-surgery vital signs, and negligent extubation (removal of an endotracheal tube that assists in the ability to breath) can result in health complications that cause the patient to suffer serious injuries or fatalities.

Proving Anesthesia Errors Often Poses Challenges

Injuries caused by any form of surgical negligence are not like those caused in a car accident. Third-party witnesses are not available and the individuals that make up the surgical team generally focus on their own responsibilities to an extent that they do not notice other conditions outside of their immediate control.

That said, substantiating allegations of anesthesia errors is often possible by identifying the types of injuries and conducting medical tests, examining the records pertaining to the procedure and asking the right questions during discovery. Medical errors are generally technical in nature, but this is no reason why injury victims should not seek experienced legal guidance.

Additional Resources:

The Hidden Dangers of Going Under, Scientific American, April 1, 2014

Other Blog topics:

Tuscaloosa Medical Malpractice Claims Often Stem From “Routine” Procedures, Tuscaloosa Medical Malpractice Blog

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