When patients undergo surgery, they aren’t just relying on the surgeon. They also put their trust in the hands of the people who provide anesthesia. Inattention and mistakes during this critical phase of care can have dangerous consequences.
Anesthesia may be provided by a medical doctor with special training in anesthesia (an “anesthesiologist”), or by a specially trained advanced practice nurse (a “nurse anesthetist,” or “CRNA”). Sometimes medical residents in training will be involved in providing anesthesia care. In most cases, patients will not know exactly who will provide their anesthesia care until shortly before the procedure. During longer surgeries, responsibility for anesthesia is commonly handed off during meal breaks, or at the end of a shift.
Care must be taken in all phases of anesthesia. Patients must be properly assessed for risk factors such as sleep apnea, medication allergies, and prior bad reactions to anesthesia. In the operating room, the anesthetic medication must be given in appropriate doses. During surgery, patients must be carefully monitored and positioned to avoid airway problems and nerve damage. At the end of surgery, the anesthesia must be “reversed,” which requires close attention by the surgical and post-surgical care team. Beyond the operating table, the recovery room team plays a critical role in responding to over-sedation and keeping patients safe.
Examples of negligent anesthesia care include:
A fundamental goal of anesthesia care is to safely sedate and numb patients while still delivering all of the oxygen the body needs to fuel the brain, heart, and other critical organs. During “general anesthesia,” a breathing tube and ventilator are necessary. In “conscious sedation,” a patient is medicated but continues to breathe independently during the procedure. In either type of anesthesia, problems with a patient’s oxygenation can quickly turn dangerous. Lack of oxygen can result in:
Often, family members are told that there were “complications” after a patient is injured or dies as a result of an anesthesia error. Family members frequently have unanswered questions about what happened, and wonder about mistakes or negligent care.
The attorneys at Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC are experienced in reviewing anesthesia error cases, and search for red flags in the medical record. The firm also consults experts anesthesiologists, anesthetists, and nurses to review medical records and provide their opinions about the care. To talk to our team about your situation, call us today or fill out our online contact form for a free claim evaluation.