Many patients find the idea of anesthesia scary because anesthesia renders you unconscious. When under anesthesia, you are dependent on surgical staff to keep you alive.
A medical error during the administration of anesthesia can leave you seriously injured. You might suffer brain damage, nerve injury, or fatal complications.
Here are some facts you should know about the risks of an anesthesia injury and how you can get personal injury compensation for yourself or a loved one.
How Does Anesthesia Work?
Healthcare providers use anesthesia during a medical procedure for the following purposes.
To Render You Unconscious
During surgeries, diagnostic tests, or other invasive procedures, healthcare providers need you to be unconscious so they can do their jobs. If you are awake, you might move or otherwise experience discomfort, making the procedure impossible to perform.
To Paralyze Your Organs and Muscles
In some cases, unconsciousness will not suffice. Your organs and muscles have nerves that cause them to twitch or move as a reflex. Paralyzing your muscles and organs allows surgeons to operate without worrying about your organs or muscles twitching.
To Block Your Pain
Patients who experience pain can make the medical provider’s job more difficult. Using an anesthetic to block a patient’s pain ensures the patient remains comfortable so the doctor or dentist can do their job.
What Are the Types of Anesthesia?
Anesthetics fall into three categories:
Local anesthetics numb a small area by blocking the sodium channel used by peripheral nerves to transmit signals. By blocking nerve activity, the nerves cannot send pain signals. Local anesthetic also results in the temporary loss of motor control and sensitivity to pressure, texture, and temperature.
The most recognizable local anesthetic is procaine — the generic name for Novocain. Dentists use procaine during tooth extractions, root canals, and other dental procedures.
A regional anesthetic shuts down the nerves in a region of your body without rendering you unconscious. Like local anesthesia, regional anesthesia blocks nerve signals. But instead of administering local anesthesia to peripheral nerves, anesthesiologists administer regional anesthesia to nerve roots. This numbs everything connected to that nerve root.
One example of a regional anesthetic is an epidural administered to ease labor and delivery. Given correctly, the epidural numbs the body below the injection point while leaving the upper body and brain unaffected. An epidural also leaves the patient conscious.
General anesthesia usually combines several drugs to render you unconscious and block nerve signals between your body and brain. This allows a medical provider to perform extensive procedures like major surgeries or procedures that take a long time.
General anesthetics usually include both a gas that you inhale and drugs introduced through an intravenous line.
Once you fall into unconsciousness, the anesthesiologist must:
- Administer anesthetics to maintain unconsciousness
- Maintain your airway and breathing
- Monitor your vital signs
- Respond to any problems that arise during the procedure
- Wake you at the end of the procedure
What Types of Anesthesia Injuries Can Occur?
Anesthesia errors happen in a few different ways, including:
An overdose happens when a medical provider administers too much anesthetic. In cases involving a general anesthetic, an overdose can kill a patient. In cases involving a regional or local anesthetic, an overdose can permanently damage nerves.
Overdoses can happen when the doctor, dentist, or anesthesiologist miscalculates the dose needed to achieve the anesthetic effect.
When an underdose happens, the patient remains aware during the procedure. In a minor procedure, the medical professional can simply administer more anesthesia when the patient reports pain or discomfort.
But during surgery, the patient can regain some level of awareness without anyone realizing it. The patient could experience all of the pain involved in the procedure without being able to move or speak.
An allergic reaction can happen through mere chance. If neither the anesthesiologist nor the patient knew of the allergy, the allergic reaction might just be a tragic accident.
But occasionally, a hospital or anesthesiologist overlooks a patient’s known allergies. After administering the anesthesia, the patient may experience an allergic reaction that causes a serious injury or death.
Administering the Wrong Drug
Drug mix-ups happen. When a hospital or anesthesiologist mixes up an anesthetic, the error might have fatal consequences. A mix-up can lead to an overdose, underdose, or allergic reaction.
Anesthesia injuries include physical injuries that happen while administering anesthesia. The most common anesthesia injury is a sore throat after a general anesthetic. Other physical injuries include missed or blown veins, bruises, and lung damage.
Failure to Monitor or Maintain Vitals
If an anesthesiologist fails to monitor or maintain your vitals while you are anesthetized, you can experience a severe injury or death. Brain damage can result from a failure to monitor respiration or oxygen levels. A heart attack might occur if an anesthesiologist fails to monitor the heartbeat.
When Can You Get Compensation for an Anesthesia Injury?
Medical errors happen frequently. But not every medical error amounts to medical malpractice. In Florida, you must show that the anesthesiologist breached the “prevailing professional standard of care” to prove medical malpractice.
This means you must show that the anesthesiologist failed to provide reasonable care under the circumstances. In other words, a reasonably prudent anesthesiologist in the same situation would not have made the same error.
If you can prove medical malpractice, you can recover your economic and non-economic damages.
Your non-economic damages include all of the ways in which your injuries diminished your quality of life.
Examples of non-economic losses include:
- Mental anguish
- Inability to perform tasks
- Reduction in the enjoyment of life
Your economic damages include your medical bills and lost income due to your injuries.
Contact a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer For Help After an Anesthesia Injury
An anesthesia error can cause serious, permanent injuries like brain damage and nerve injuries. These mistakes can even cause death. To discuss the compensation you might seek for your anesthesia injury, contact today the Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.