Anesthesia has made modern surgery bearable. Once upon a time, patients drank alcohol or consumed opium to blunt the pain of having their bodies cut open. Thanks to the miracle of modern anesthesia, however, patients today fall asleep and wake up once the surgery is over. If all goes well, patients should feel like the surgery was over in the blink of an eye.
Nonetheless, anesthesia errors occur regularly, leading to devastating patient injuries. At Salango Law, our West Virginia medical malpractice lawyers help those injured by surgical complications, including problems with anesthesia. This is a complicated legal claim to bring, so reach out to us today. Below, we answer some of the most common questions regarding what can go wrong in the operating room.
What Is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia prevents patients from feeling pain during a medical procedure but wears off once the procedure is completed. There are different types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia. A patient has a body part numbed. An example is a dentist giving a patient Novocain before removing a tooth.
- Regional anesthesia. A patient has pain blocked in a region or part of their body. For example, patients in childbirth have an epidural that blocks the pain in the lower half of the body.
- General anesthesia. Anesthesia makes a patient unconscious. General anesthesia is most common for those undergoing invasive surgery.
An anesthesiologist typically administers regional or general anesthesia and receives specialized medical training. Many different drugs are used, and part of an anesthesiologist’s skill involves choosing the right ones at the correct dosage.
What Are Common Anesthesia Errors?
Some of the most common errors include:
- Administering the wrong amount of anesthesia
- Delaying the delivery of anesthesia
- Using the wrong anesthesia drug
- Failing to anticipate anesthesia interactions with other drugs
- Overlooking potential allergic reactions to anesthesia drugs
- Neglecting to provide instructions to patients before surgery
- Failing to monitor the patient properly during surgery
- Neglecting to administer oxygen during surgery when needed
- Failing to move the patient during surgery
These are some of the most common mistakes. However, there are many others we can discuss in a private consultation.
What Injuries Can I Suffer Due To Improper Anesthesia?
There are many problems patients suffer, such as:
- Cognitive impairment. Patients might struggle with memory or even movement or coordination for months following surgery.
- Allergic reaction. The severity of the reaction depends on the patient. But some can suffer permanent injuries when their body reacts to the anesthesia.
- Cardiovascular complications. Patients can experience high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and other problems.
- Brain injury. Patients who are denied adequate oxygen during surgery can suffer permanent brain damage.
- Stroke. Studies have shown that patients are at heightened risk of a stroke 30 days after having surgery.
- Coma. Some patients never wake up due to anesthesia errors.
If you don’t feel quite right after surgery, meet with a doctor. You might also want a second opinion from a new doctor since your primary physician might feel pressure to cover up a mistake.
What Is Anesthesia Awareness?
This is a terrifying condition where a patient literally wakes up during surgery. However, the patient usually can’t move, so they can’t tell the doctors they need more anesthesia. Many patients develop post-traumatic stress disorder because of this experience.
When Can I Sue For Anesthesia Errors?
The fact that something went wrong during surgery doesn’t necessarily mean you have a solid legal claim. Instead, we need to analyze whether the medical team, including the anesthesiologist, committed malpractice.
At base, we must identify whether your providers followed certain standards. For example, you might have had a negative interaction between anesthesia and a drug you are taking. But if you didn’t disclose your medications, then the anesthesiologist probably isn’t to blame for any negative interaction.
By contrast, we expect competent anesthesiologists to provide proper counseling and to monitor patients during surgery. When they fail, they have likely committed medical malpractice in West Virginia.
What Causes Anesthesia Malpractice?
West Virginia is blessed to have many professional anesthesiologists. Nevertheless, errors continue to occur and could happen to anyone. Some of the more common reasons include the following:
- Chemical dependency
- Distraction in the operating room
- Data entry errors
- Substandard equipment
- Lack of adequate medication
Few anesthesiologists will admit to making a mistake. In fact, you might find your entire medical team telling you everything went “fine” during surgery and avoiding your questions. Typically, patients need an experienced lawyer to investigate to uncover if anything went wrong.
How Do I Know I Was The Victim Of Anesthesia Errors?
If a loved one died or is in a coma, then you will obviously investigate further. However, it’s often hard to tell. For example, many patients feel somewhat “cloudy” after surgery. Other patients have difficulty walking or sitting upright. These temporary feelings do not mean you suffered a serious injury in surgery. But consult a doctor if your condition doesn’t improve and discuss your concerns. It often takes digging to find out if something went wrong during surgery.
What Compensation Can I Receive?
Compensation should make up for your losses and suffering. Some compensatory damages would cover damages for some following sections below.
Follow-Up Medical Care
Anesthesia errors could force a patient to have another surgery, or they might have an extended hospital stay. Patients suffering from impairments might need rehabilitation and prescription medication, or they might require at-home help. At the extreme end, someone in a coma probably needs to be moved into a nursing home.
Lost Income Or Wages
If your surgery left you impaired, you might miss work. You should receive some compensation to cover this lost income. The amount will depend on the severity of your injuries. If you miss two months of work, you’ll receive less in lost wages than if you missed a year. Someone with permanent disabilities will lose out on a lifetime of income.
Pain And Suffering
Anesthesia errors often result in pain, distress, emotional anguish, and suffering. You should receive money to make up for this experience. How much can you receive? It all depends on the injuries you have suffered. Someone with a permanent disability will likely receive more than someone whose cognitive impairment is temporary.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The lawyers at Salango Law have deep experience in this field. West Virginia doesn’t make it easy for patients to receive justice and fair compensation. We can shepherd your case through the legal system and fight for your rights. To learn more, contact us today. You can schedule a free consultation at a time that works for you if you call (304) 342-0512 or contact us online.