Anesthesia Injury Malpractice

Anesthesia (or anaesthesia) generally refers to the use of an anesthetic drug to reduce or prevent pain during surgery or other medical procedures. In patient surgical procedures are not the only time anesthesia is administered. Dental visits, cosmetic surgery procedures, and a host of other out-patient scenarios are all common places for anesthesia to be used.

Often, anesthesiologists are not present during these applications; indeed, many other doctors, dentists, surgeons, nurses or other health care providers administer sedatives and anesthetics. It is important that these medical providers have effective training and appropriate certifications to avoid complications from anesthetic use from arising.

Depending upon a person's current health and the medical procedure taking place, an anesthesiologist, doctor, or other medical professional may decide to use a local, regional or general anesthetic or sedation.

Local Anesthetic
The use of local anesthesia numbs only a small part of your body, for instance the cite where stitches will be placed or a cavity filled, while you remain otherwise awake and alert. The anesthetic drug is generally applied (as a spray, cream, or other solution) or injected directly where the pain is focused; the drug inhibits the transmissions of pain signals. The effect generally lasts for less than an hour or for a few hours at a time and dissipates as the anesthetic is carried away by the bodies' natural functions. However, a catheter placed at the desired location can provide a continuous administration of anesthetic for days or weeks and may be utilized for purposes of pain management.
Regional Anesthetic
One of the most common regional anesthetics is perhaps the epidural, administered during childbirth to block labor pains in the lower half of the mother's body. Regional anesthetics are injected near a single nerve or cluster of nerves to block pain to a specific region of the body. A foot, hand, leg, arm, or even one side of the neck may be prevented from feeling pain with the use of a regional anesthetic.
General Anesthetic
Often referred to as "going under," a general anesthetic induces a loss of consciousness. You won't remember the surgery, or perhaps the time right after it if a general anesthetic was used. A general anesthetic affects all areas of your body including your brain, heart, and lungs, and can suppress the body's natural reflexes, such as coughing or even breathing. A breathing tube or oxygen mask may be required by the use of certain general anesthetics.
Sedation
Sedation doesn't "knock you out" like general anesthesia, but you may have no recollection of the procedure afterwards. Sometimes producing what's called a "twilight sleep," a mild sedative may be used in conjunction with a local or regional anesthetic when general anesthesia is not warranted, or a patient's health could not safely tolerate a general anesthetic.

Anesthesia Errors and Risks

The mis-administration of anesthesia can have devastating consequences, including severe brain damage and death. Anesthesia injuries can result from many different scenarios:

Administered Incorrect Anesthesia Dosage (Anesthesia Overdose)
Dosage amounts are very important, and a proper patient history should be taken along with thorough pre-procedure preparations to ensure that neither too little nor too much is given. Improper labeling or careless administration--giving a dosage twice, for instance--may also result in the wrong dose being given. Along with the amount, the timing is also important. Delayed anesthesia administration can result in unnecessary pain. It is also important that devices used to deliver the dosages are properly working and not defective.
Doctor Failed to Take Effective Medical Precautions
Many anesthetic applications require the patient be assisted by medical intervention such as intubation. Incorrectly intubating a patient can cause serious injury to the airway and esophagus; if the mistake is not promptly recognized and corrected, the results can be fatal.
Doctor Failed to Properly Monitor Patient
It is important that the patient under anesthetic is carefully and effectively monitored by both the health care professionals and correctly functioning and placed equipment. Not only in cases like the above, where the symptoms of a incorrect intubation were missed, but the oxygen levels and other vital signs of the patient should be closely and carefully monitored. There have been cases where doctors left the patient unattended, or were sleeping or intoxicated in the operating room, and failed to see the signs of distress until damage had already occurred.
Doctor Failed to Adequately Prep Patient
Simple pre-anesthesia instructions, such as avoiding food or alcohol, and taking a careful patient history to ensure no harmful drug interactions are seemingly simple, but incredibly vital steps in avoiding anesthesia complications. Allergic reactions cannot always be anticipated, but many steps can and should be taken to prevent them from occurring.

Anesthesia Injuries

Anesthesia injuries include paralysis, coma, heart attack, stroke, asphyxia, brain injury, and even death. Some more specific potential injuries include:

  • ulnar neuropathy (pinched nerve in the elbow)
  • intubation incorrectly into the esophagus
  • traumatic intubation (to deep or rough resulting in blood being introduced to the airway or barotrauma, which can result in a collapsed lung)
  • traumatic extubation (especially common after long procedures)
  • adverse drug reactions (either as a result of dosage errors, adverse drug interactions, or allergic reactions)

Compounding the injuries of a patient who has passed or is left severely incapacitated, is the difficulty associated with proving negligence. If your loved one has suffered an anesthesia injury, it is important to promptly secure copies of all records relating to their procedure.

Our Anesthesia Malpractice Attorneys Can Help You

Anesthesia malpractice injuries can be devastating for both the injured as well as family members who are left to care for their severely injured loved one. Financial compensation for a anesthesia injury can help to cover the cost of a victim's medical bills, recovery costs, and, if necessary, long-term care. The anesthesia injury lawyers and medical malpractice attorneys at our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based firm will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding a anesthesia malpractice claim and prepare a case to pursue fair compensation for:

  • Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
  • Loss of wages and future loss of earning capacity
  • Permanent disability
  • Mental impairment
  • Medical bills

GPW’s attorneys have a proven track record of success and a strong desire to advocate for their clients. Our anesthesia injury lawyers are available at our main office, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but also work out of our offices in Michigan and West Virginia and have helped malpractice victims in many areas of the country.

Contact the Anesthesia Injury Attorneys at Our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Office

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as the result of negligent or careless medical treatment, our anesthesia injury attorneys and medical malpractice lawyers can help. Contact our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office where our attorneys also serve clients from West Virginia, Michigan, and beyond.