Anesthetics are drugs administered to patients before surgery that induce a state of temporary numbness, unresponsiveness, and paralysis. This temporary state of paralysis makes patients unable to feel pain during surgery and decreases their stress response so they can undergo their operation without being conscious or negatively receptive to surgery. While the drug is useful for minimizing pain during surgery, anesthesia can lead to complications and serious injury if administered incorrectly. One of the most notable forms of anesthesia error occurs when too little anesthesia is given to a patient, causing a state referred to as “anesthesia awareness.”
During anesthesia awareness, the expected unconsciousness the drug is meant to induce is not maintained during surgery—instead, the patient is fully or partially conscious during surgery, but unable to communicate their need for more anesthetic to doctors and nurses because of the temporary paralysis. In some cases, the patient may still be able to feel pain. This can lead to the patient developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety problems following the surgery.
Anesthesia error is very dangerous and costly to the patient. In serious cases, it can lead to a botched surgery, organ problems, or other serious injuries. Additionally, anesthesia error can cause blood pressure complications, heart function problems, or vein, artery, and nerve damage. While faulty equipment can be a leading cause of anesthesia error, negligence among medical personnel is more commonly the agent of mistakes in anesthetic administration.
Types of Anesthesia Error
While it may seem unlikely a licensed medical professional would make such a crucial mistake during surgery, anesthesia errors are fairly common and are usually a result of failure to monitor the patient, a lack of communication, or a mistake in dosage. Common kinds of anesthesia error include:
- Failure to properly instruct patient on pre-anesthetic protocol, such as limiting food and drink intake
- Failure to prevent anesthetic interaction with a prescription drug
- Failure to monitor the patient or administer oxygen when needed
- Administering anesthetic to a patient with an allergy
- Administering too much of an anesthetic
- Administering too little of an anesthetic
- Administering the wrong kind of anesthetic
There are many different types of anesthetic whose effects are some combination of amnesia, loss of consciousness, decreased stress response, and temporary paralysis. While some anesthetics render the patient fully unresponsive, others can be more dissociative and induce a trance-like state. Furthermore, a patient not experiencing complete unconsciousness during surgery does not necessarily indicate an anesthesia error.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Lexington
We place a large amount of trust in doctors and medical professionals to administer treatment safely and correctly. To come out of surgery with more complications than you previously had because of an anesthesia error can be crushing. At Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, our medical malpractice attorneys believe those who betray public trust by incorrectly administering anesthesia out of negligence should be held accountable for their actions. If you were a victim of an anesthesia error and are facing additional medical problems because of it, don’t hesitate to contact our Lexington offices at 859-788-7600 to discuss your case in more detail.