It can be crushing to find out that an anesthesia error caused you grave harm or resulted in the death of a loved one. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, over 2,000 people died during a 10-year period because of anesthesia-related mistakes. A majority (over 42 percent) of those deaths occurred as a result of anesthesia used for therapeutic reasons. On average, there are 150 deaths every year, making anesthesia errors one of the more common types of medical malpractice. It’s thus a good idea to understand the various risks associated with this type of medical error and the legal recourse available to you when something like this happens.
Overview of Errors and Injuries
Anesthesia mistakes can cause all kinds of harm. They can lead to brain damage, tracheal injuries, birth defects and spinal injuries. Further injuries may result from the latter, including strokes, paralysis and heart attacks. These can result from any number of mistakes made by anesthesiologists, or other medical professionals, who might administer the wrong drugs, miss signs of an allergic reaction or simply not pay attention to your health status.
Children Are at Risk
Anesthesia has also been linked to learning disabilities in children. According to a Mayo Clinic study carried out in the 70s and 80s, children who were exposed to anesthesia on multiple occasions were more likely to suffer from neuro-degeneration than those who hadn’t undergone any anesthetic treatment. One dosage, according to the study, would have little impact, but with each added dosage, the likelihood increases. Children who had three doses of anesthesia were 260 percent more likely to suffer from cognitive issues. However, the researchers were careful to say that the study could not conclusively determine a direct link between anesthetic drugs and the health problems in question. Moreover, the drugs used at the time — halothane and nitrous oxide – are not used very much in today’s day and age.
Types of Anesthesia
Generally speaking, local and regional anesthesia do not lead to injury-inducing errors. This is because patients undergoing this type of treatment are able to speak about their experience while it’s happening. Thus, they can tell the anesthesiologist about any pain or discomfort, and the medical professional can make the appropriate changes. But when general anesthesia is administered, the patient becomes unconscious, so he or she cannot communicate pain or discomfort in the same way. Instead, the anesthesiologist must monitor the patient’s breathing and bodily functions.
Failure to properly monitor the patient’s breathing could lead to anoxic brain injury (or brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen). The professional may also inadequately administer the oxygen which can also lead to brain injury. Similarly, if the anesthesiologist sets up the equipment in the wrong way, the patient’s throat could be severely damaged. These types of mistakes often occur in cluttered and hurried environments, where communication is poor or altogether absent. Nurses may also feel disempowered by their superiors, causing them to keep quiet about any mistakes.
If you’ve been victimized by this form of negligence, you could pursue medical malpractice claims in order to receive compensation for the resultant injuries. In some cases, claimants can be awarded millions of dollars. Whether you suffered a stroke due to low blood pressure or a brain injury due to low oxygen, you may be able to obtain remuneration for related medical expenses, lost income (present and future), and pain and suffering damages.
What’s more, this type of claim might be the wake-up call your healthcare provider needs. Hospitals can sometimes fall into disarray when all they worry about are profits and the supremacy of doctors. When forced to pay for their negligence, hospitals can begin the process making the necessary changes – changes that can prevent similar mishaps from occurring in the future.