Patients undergoing surgical procedures receive a type of medicine, known as anesthesia, which puts them into a deep “sleep,” preventing them from feeling pain or fear during the procedure. General anesthesia puts a person all the way “under,” while local anesthesia takes away the pain in only a specific area. While many anesthesia errors result in minor or moderate injury, others can cause severe injury or even death. Brain damage, spinal cord injury, organ failure, coma, and heart attack are just a few of the more serious complications of a mistake made by the anesthesiologist or the nurse who prepares the syringe.
Statistics Regarding Anesthesia Deaths
Many people are afraid to undergo general anesthesia, fearing they won’t wake up. In the 1940’s, for every one million patients who were administered general anesthesia, 640 died as a result. Yet, by the end of the 1980’s, that number was down significantly to four deaths per million patients. The lower numbers were likely due to modern safety procedures and more thorough medical training for doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, after this substantial decrease in anesthesia deaths, they appear to be on the rise once again—as high as seven deaths for every million patients who are administered general anesthesia.
Older Patients, Children, and Babies Have Greater Risks from Anesthesia
The rate of death within a year following general anesthesia for those over the age of 65 is a frightening one in 10. It is theorized that this number has little to do with a decrease in care given during a procedure requiring anesthesia, rather it is due to the fact that larger numbers of older patients are being operated on. Mounting evidence has also shown that children and babies may also be at a greater risk when given general anesthesia than adults.
Some of the more common anesthesia mistakes, which result from medical negligence and can lead to death or serious injury, include the following:
Failure to properly monitor
a patient while he or she is under anesthesia can lead to serious or fatal mistakes. The anesthesiologist is responsible for regulating the patient’s level of consciousness during the procedure as well as the patient’s oxygen level. Failure to monitor can lead to serious brain injury or death.
Failure to properly intubate
a patient during surgery can lead to serious injury or fatalities. In some cases the anesthesiologist must intubate a patient during surgery so the patient can breathe; failure to maintain proper air flow can lead to brain injury or death. In some cases, anesthesiologists can cause injuries during intubation by not using care and not taking the necessary time.
In some cases, anesthesiologists may make communication errors
during the surgery that can have disastrous consequences. The anesthesiologist must apprise the surgeons of the patient’s condition and vital signs. If he or she fails to do this, serious complications can arise.
Dosage errors can happen
when a patient is given too much or too little anesthesia, which is based on body weight, age, and gender. If a patient is given too much anesthesia, dangerously prolonged sedation can lead to brain trauma or coma. Too little anesthesia can lead to a particularly horrifying experience during which the patient wakes up during the surgical procedure, yet is paralyzed and unable to speak. The patient is feeling the extreme pain of the procedure and is completely aware of what is happening. Such an anesthesia error can lead to profound psychological trauma.
If your loved one has died because of an anesthesia error, it can be beneficial to speak to a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney. You may be entitled to collect future lost wages, expenses related to the death, and pain and suffering damages. Of course, a lawsuit can never bring your loved one back; however, it could prevent such a tragic mistake from happening to another person.
Contact Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been injured after undergoing anesthesia, the medical malpractice attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., can help. Our team of lawyers consists of some of the best medical malpractice attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we will fight aggressively for you throughout the legal process.
The medical malpractice attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 68 years of experience representing patients and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton counties. We are also proud to serve injured patients throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.