Patients undergo surgery to improve or fix a medical condition. Surgery is a serious matter, no matter if it is a “minor” surgery like a routine mole removal or if it is a major surgery like a quadruple bypass. All surgeries have risks. While there is no guarantee in any medical procedure, when healthcare professionals follow patient safety rules, surgical problems are significantly reduced. In a surgery, anesthesiologists have an important role of monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, level of consciousness, and amount of oxygen in the blood. If an anesthesiologist does not pay close attention, a patient is put in serious danger. Below is information on the most common anesthesia errors, the injuries resulting from the errors, and what you can do to lower risks associated with anesthesia so that you or your loved one is not a victim of an anesthesia-error related injury.
Common Causes of Anesthesia Errors
The following are some of the most common anesthesia mistakes resulting from medical negligence or wrongful action:
Dosage error: When an anesthesiologist gives the patient too much or too little anesthesia.
Failure to properly monitor a patient: An anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, level of consciousness, and amount of oxygen in the blood. Failure to monitor or failure to recognize complications from abnormal inaccurate monitor readings can put the patient in serious danger.
Turning off an alarm for abnormal readings: Devices are often used during many medical procedures to monitor the oxygen and blood pressure. These are key vital signs monitored during surgery. Medical devices have an alarm function intended to alert medical providers when levels give cause for concern. If a medical professional turns this function off, they may miss important cues about patient distress and injury.
Delayed anesthesia delivery: There can be error in the delivery of anesthesia including vaporizer leakage, IV errors, syringe-swapping troubles and other complications at the outset of surgery.
Common Injuries from Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia error can cause significant damage. The most common injuries caused by anesthesia errors include:
Asphyxia or lack of adequate oxygen supply
Cardiovascular injury, which may include heart attack or stroke
Brain damage including traumatic brain injury or TBI
Anesthesia care is both important and dangerous. Before any surgery, make sure that you have a clear understanding of the role of the anesthesiologist in the operating room during the administration of anesthesia and throughout the procedure. When the anesthesiologist meets with you prior to surgery, insist on asking the following questions and take your time reading the informed consent provided:
Will the anesthesiologist be in the room?
What monitoring equipment will be used during the procedure?
Does the monitoring equipment continuously monitor?
How many other surgeries are on the schedule?
Is the anesthesiologist employed by the hospital? Does he or she have adequate insurance coverage should an error occur and if not, will the hospital accept responsibility?
Will the anesthesiologist wait for wake-up before going to another procedure?
Will a CRNA manage the anesthesia, while the anesthesiologist is somewhere else?
What is the experience and training of the CRNA?
How long would it take to get the anesthesiologist in the room if you stopped breathing?
If you are uncomfortable with the answers to these questions, withhold your informed consent for the procedure until you are satisfied with the level of care that will be provided to you.
Unfortunately, some physicians are not careful during surgical procedures. They get careless, complacent, or cut corners on patient safety, forgetting the real dangers or cramming more surgeries into a day to maximize profits. Reckless physician conduct injures patients.
Before a surgery, talk to your physician and anesthesiologist about your concerns. Insist the physician take precautions to prevent error. Demanding safety before surgery may just save your life.
At Buchanan Firm, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases, including cases involving surgical errors. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.