Anesthesia Errors in San Antonio
In the world of modern medicine, even the most simple medical procedures come with their own set of risks. But the risks rapidly multiply in surgical procedures that require general anesthesia. That’s because there is so much that can go wrong from “putting patients under,” as they say. In fact, thousands of Americans suffer death and injury from anesthesia errors every year. When these errors occur, it’s crucial to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney to fight for justice.
If you or a loved one sustained an injury or death because of an anesthesia issue in a Texas hospital, contact Janicek Law today. Let our dedicated personal injury attorneys help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Call 210-366-4949 for a free consultation.
What is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is a type of inhalable, injectable, or topical drug used during surgical procedures that prevents patients from feeling pain. Most inhalable anesthetics are made of nitrous oxide (AKA laughing gas), isoflurane, sevoflurane, and desflurane. Some types of anesthesia make you go to sleep, while some just numb parts of the body.
Types of Anesthesia
There are many types of anesthesia used during medical procedures. The type of anesthesia you need will generally depend on the surgical procedure. For example, if you’re undergoing a simple dental procedure, you likely won’t need to be put to sleep.
- Local Anesthesia only numbs a small part of the body. So if you need a tooth filling, your dentist will likely inject some local anesthesia into your mouth in order to prevent pain. Local anesthesia doesn’t put patients to sleep.
- Regional Anesthesia numbs large parts of the body and doesn’t put the patient asleep. This type of anesthesia is often used during c-section procedures and knee replacements, for example.
- General Anesthesia puts patients to sleep during major, invasive surgeries. For example, people undergoing brain surgery or even a hysterectomy receive general anesthesia.
- Sedation is similar to general anesthesia in that it makes patients go to sleep. The difference between the two though is that sedation causes a very light sleep, not a complete loss of consciousness. Even still, patients who are sedated during a surgical procedure likely won’t remember anything that happened. Sedation is common in colonoscopies, for example.
Who Administers Anesthesia?
The answer to this question depends on the medical procedure you’re undergoing. If you’re undergoing a quick dental procedure or even a wart removal procedure, the person administering anesthesia will be your dentist or doctor.
However, if you’re undergoing a major surgical procedure, an anesthesiologist will be administering anesthesia medication. Sometimes, the anesthesiologist will be joined by a team of other people including a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a certified anesthesiologist assistant, and fellows or residents. Their job is to not only monitor patients’ pain during and after procedures, but it’s also their job to monitor vital signs and make sure the patients stay asleep.
What is Anesthesia Awareness?
Anesthesia awareness is basically when patients wake up during surgery and remember the event afterward. Some people who wake up during surgery experience extreme pain, while some just feel the discomfort, pressure, and tugging from the surgeons operating on their bodies. Because of this, many patients who experience anesthesia awareness often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the event.
What Causes Anesthesia Awareness?
This phenomenon isn’t fully understood. However, many health care providers believe the most likely causes are too little anesthesia, equipment failure, or an anesthesiologist’s failure to adequately monitor patients during surgery.
How Common is Anesthesia Awareness?
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA), anesthesia awareness is rare, happening at an approximate rate of 1 to 2 in 1,000 anesthetics.
Can You Sue for Anesthesia Awareness?
If it can be proven that the reason you woke up during surgery was due to a medical error on behalf of your anesthesiologist or their equipment, then yes, you have grounds to sue and receive financial compensation.
Most Common Anesthesia Errors
Unfortunately, anesthesia malpractice can result in serious injury and even wrongful death. The most common anesthesia errors are listed below.
- Giving a patient too much anesthesia
- Giving a patient too little anesthesia
- The anesthesiologist fails to monitor vital signs during the surgery, such as the patient’s blood pressure or oxygen level
- The medical professional fails to insert the breathing tube properly
- Failing to administer spinal anesthetic properly, resulting in nerve damage or paralysis
- Failing to prevent or act on adverse drug reactions between the anesthetic and other medications
- Turning off the pulse oximeter alarm, either intentionally or accidentally.
- Failing to tell the patient how to prepare for major surgery (for example: not telling the patient to avoid eating or drinking beforehand, which can lead to dangerous complications)
- Allowing the patient to stay sedated for too long
How Common Are Anesthesia-Related Deaths in the U.S.?
Anesthesia errors are very closely related to medication errors, which is another medical mistake that falls under the umbrella of medical malpractice. A study of anesthesia-related mortality in the U.S. claims that 2,211 deaths occurred between 1999 and 2005. The specific causes of death include too much anesthesia, adverse effects from anesthesia, and anesthesia complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The study concludes that anesthesia deaths occur at a rate of 1.1 per 1 million people every year.
Possible Complications and Injuries From Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia can result in serious complications and injuries, especially if not administered properly. Possible anesthesia complications include:
- Tooth chipping due to improper intubation
- Larynx damage or general sore throat from intubation
- Anaphylaxis, AKA a serious allergic reaction, from anesthesia
- Heart attack
- Nausea and vomiting
- Post-operative pain
- Traumatic brain injury from lack of oxygen during surgery and sedation
- Respiratory issues such as pneumonia
- Nerve injuries and paralysis, especially from spinal anesthetics
- Blood clots
- Waking up during surgery
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, especially if the patient wakes up during a major surgery
It’s important to note that the more minor complications – such as nausea, vomiting, and postoperative pain – are fairly common. Meanwhile, the most severe ones – such as brain damage, death, stroke, etc. – are fairly rare.
How to Prove That an Anesthesia Error Occurred
Anesthesia errors basically boil down to medical negligence. In other words, medical errors like this are generally caused by the doctor, their equipment, the hospital, etc. In order to win a medical malpractice lawsuit of any kind, you have to prove the following elements of negligence.
- Duty of Care: All medical professionals owe their patients a specific duty of care.
- Breached Duty of Care: The medical professional breached that duty of care. In this case, the medical professional did this by committing anesthesiology errors.
- Causation: The patient suffered serious complications or death as a direct result of the anesthesia error.
- Damages: The patient suffered many types of damages due to the anesthesia error which they should receive compensation for.
Proving all these elements of negligence in medical malpractice cases can sound daunting. Maybe you don’t even know where to begin. No worries, an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Janicek Law can help you gather the appropriate evidence to prove that the error occurred. Additionally, we hire the best medical experts in the area to analyze your case, accurately explain why and how your anesthesia error occurred, and explain why you deserve fair compensation for your suffering.
Average Anesthesia Malpractice Settlements
A 2020 study that analyzed the payments from 90 anesthesia malpractice cases between 1959 and 2018 concluded that the average settlement was $1,140,544. The study also claims that settlement numbers were higher if anesthesia complications occurred after the procedure and that the average was $4,250,000 in those situations.
Types of Damages from Anesthesia Errors
If you or someone you love has suffered from major anesthesia complications, you could receive financial compensation for:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future rehabilitative bills
- Counseling costs if you’ve developed PTSD from your experience
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses, if the error resulted in wrongful death
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations Texas
Texans have two years to file medical malpractice cases. The clock starts ticking on the day that the anesthesia error occurred. If you wait longer than 2 years, your medical malpractice claim could be dismissed altogether. That’s why it’s best to act fast and call the legal team at Janicek Law.