Richmond Anesthesia Error Attorneys
Representing Virginia patients injured in preventable anesthesia accidents
Anesthesia – from the Greek term meaning “without sensation” – is the state of controlled, temporary loss of sensation or consciousness that is induced by healthcare providers with medications for medical purposes. When errors are made by anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists during the administration of anesthesia, the resulting injuries can be overwhelming. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from an anesthesia error, please contact the lawyers at Phelan Petty for a consultation.
Anesthesia mistakes resulting in death – the statistics
An in-depth study from Columbia University analyzed anesthesia-related deaths in the United States, and researchers found the following numbers. Out of deaths related to anesthesia use:
- 46.6% were attributed to overdose of anesthetics
- 42.5% were attributed to adverse effects of anesthetics in therapeutic use
- 3.6% were attributed to complications of anesthesia during pregnancy, labor or puerperium (postpartum)
- 7.3% were attributed to other types of complications of anesthesia
In the cases used in the study, the highest rates of anesthesia-related deaths occurred in individuals over the age of eighty-five, and more men died from anesthesia complications than women.
Types of anesthesia
Physicians use different types of anesthesia for different procedures, depending on the degree of pain control and loss of awareness that is indicated.
- General anesthesia. This type of anesthesia typically renders the patient completely unconscious with the inability to protect their airway. Patients under general anesthesia should feel nothing and be aware of nothing during the procedure. They often require ventilatory support – i.e., help maintaining their oxygen levels. Patients undergoing major surgery usually do so under general anesthesia.
- Local anesthesia. With local anesthesia, you receive an injection directly into the surgical area. This numbs the area to pain for minor procedures. An example of when you may need local anesthesia is undergoing minor dental work.
- Conscious sedation. Conscious sedation, sometimes called IV or monitored sedation, combines the use of a sedative and an anesthetic, which allows a patient to remain awake but relaxed during a procedure. It lowers blood pressure and slows down respiration. Because it is often used in out-patient procedures, it may not be administered by an anesthesiologist.
Common anesthesia errors
Medical malpractice cases involving anesthesia errors usually relate to one of the following scenarios:
Errors in the dosing of anesthesia medications can have a profound negative impact on the patient’s vital signs. An excessive dose of a drug that reduces the patient’s ability to breathe may result in loss of oxygen to the brain. Less common, inadequate dosing results in a patient feeling or being aware of too much during a surgery, which can be traumatic.
Failure to monitor
A crucial part of an anesthesiologist’s job is monitoring a patient’s vital signs. Providing the right balance of medications to keep the patient sedated while maintaining a safe blood pressure and oxygen intake is crucial. Quite literally, the patient’s life is in the hands of an anesthesia provider during a surgery. Failing to monitor these vital signs and intake of medications can lead to an irreversible injury.
Anesthesia awareness is a rare yet terrifying experience that can occur due to anesthesia error. An anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring and regulating a patient’s level of consciousness during a procedure. If they fail to administer a sufficient dose or monitor the patient correctly, the patient may wake up during the surgery.
Injuries from anesthesia mistakes
The injuries a patient sustains from an anesthesia error depends on the particular patient, the type of mistake and the resulting medical response. However, the typical injuries caused by these kinds of errors include:
- Asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain)
- Aspiration (inhaling a substance into the lungs)
- Birth defects or birth injury
- Hypoxic brain injury
- Heart attack or stroke
Compensation for Richmond anesthesia injuries
If you experienced injuries because of an anesthesia error, you may be eligible to pursue compensation under Virginia medical malpractice law. This compensation covers both economic and non-economic losses, including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Loss of wages and future earning potential
- Pain and suffering
Our state allows a statute of limitations of two years on malpractice and personal injury cases, so it is important to contact our attorneys as soon as possible after your injury.