Proving Liability for Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors can occur when a nurse, anesthesiologist, or other qualified medical professional administers anesthesia in the wrong body part, with the wrong type of anesthesia, or with the wrong amount. These preventable mistakes bring unnecessary harm to the patient, and are viewed as medical malpractice on the part of the healthcare professional. The attorneys at Wagar Richard Kutcher Tygier & Luminais, LLP in Metairie, LA, can navigate the complicated nuances of medical malpractice and build a strong case for your anesthesia error lawsuit.

Different Types of Anesthesia

There are several different types of anesthesia used by medical professionals. Understanding the distinctions between each can help you become well-informed on anesthesia errors can occur:

  • Local Anesthesia: Typically administered as an injection, local anesthesia is used to numb small areas of the body. It is recommended for minor outpatient procedures in which consciousness does not need to be altered.
  • Regional Anesthesia: Used to numb a larger part of the body, regional anesthesia does not place the patient in a state of unconsciousness. However, additional sedative medications can be added for relaxation, if necessary. Examples of regional anesthesia include spinal taps and epidurals.
  • General Anesthesia: This type of anesthesia initiates unconsciousness, and is commonly performed in a hospital operating room. The patient will be completely unaware of their surroundings and should feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure. General anesthesia can be administered intravenously or via injection or inhalation.

Types of Anesthesia Errors

Medical professionals are trusted to perform their job to the best of their ability. When they fail to uphold their responsibilities, it can result in harm to the patient. If injuries occur, it is the patient’s right to hold the healthcare professional accountable for their actions.

Anesthesia errors can occur before, during, or after the medical procedure. Some of the most common types of errors include:

  • Dosage Error: This can occur if the anesthesiologist administers too much or too little anesthesia. Improper labeling can also lead to the administration of an incorrect dose.
  • Intubation Failure or Error: When patients undergo general anesthesia , intubation is necessary to assist the patient with breathing during the procedure. If proper intubation fails, or if the medical professional makes an error during intubation, it can result in serious injury.
  • Delayed Anesthesia Delivery: IV errors, vaporizer leakage, or other factors can result in complications such as delayed anesthesia delivery.
  • Improper Monitoring: Malpractice can occur if the medical professional fails to sufficiently monitor the patient's vital signs during the procedure. This can include failure to recognize complications or distress.
  • Leaving Patient Unattended: A medical provider should never, under any circumstances, leave a patient unattended while he or she is under general anesthesia. This can involve leaving the room or becoming distracted from the duties at hand.
  • Improper Oxygen Administration: If the practitioner fails to provide proper levels of oxygen throughout the duration of the procedure, it can lead to serious complications and catastrophic injury.
Medical professionals are trusted to perform their job to the best of their ability. When they fail to uphold their responsibilities, it can result in harm to the patient.
  • Incapacitated Medical Professional: It goes without saying that a medical professional should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while they are on duty. However, incapacitation can take other forms, such as operating on no or very little sleep.
  • Turning Off Alerts: Monitoring devices in the operating room, such as the pulse oximeter, have alarms that alert the surgical staff of any distress or complications. If a member of the staff turns this alarm function off, important cues can be missed, resulting in serious issues.
  • Communication Errors: If a healthcare professional fails to inform the patient about any aspect of treatment, such as pre-operative instructions, it can lead to complications.
  • Prolonged Sedation: Leaving the patient under sedation for too long can lead to otherwise avoidable problems.
  • Defective Equipment: It is the duty of medical offices and hospitals to have equipment checked and maintained regularly. Defective equipment can lead to complications that could have been easily avoided.
  • Anesthesia Awareness: Administering too little anesthesia can result in a rare but terrifying experience known as anesthesia awareness. During this event, the patient wakes up during surgery, but is still paralyzed and unable to speak. Patients experiencing anesthesia awareness may hear conversations in the operating room, feel as though they cannot breathe, or feel extreme pain. This can be both physically and mentally traumatizing.

Potential Injuries from Anesthesia Error Complications

Patients who are victims of anesthesia error complications can experience a range of injuries, from acute to chronic, and mild to severe. Some of these include:

  • Brain Injuries: One of the most impacting and serious complications of anesthesia error is a brain injury. Strokes, aneurysms, and memory loss are all potential injuries and can result in a lifetime of health problems.
  • Cardiovascular Issues: Heart attacks or other cardiovascular complications can arise due to anesthesia errors.
  • Spinal Cord Injury: Negligence can lead to spinal cord injuries in some instances. This can cause lifelong paralysis.
  • Asphyxia: Complications from asphyxia can be temporary if the problem was corrected right away. However, in cases where oxygen levels remained unnoticed, the result can be a coma, brain damage, or even death.
  • Emotional Trauma: Patients can suffer emotional disturbance if they are given too little anesthesia. Even if the patient does not experience extreme pain, waking up during a surgical procedure can be trigger a traumatic reaction.

Proving Liability in an Anesthesia Error Lawsuit

In medical malpractice cases, courts typically define negligence as the failure to exercise the proper degree of care and skill on the part of the healthcare provider. Put simply, the professional to whom you entrusted your health and well-being either did something wrong directly, or did not provide reasonable care.

A group of medical professionals hold a sedation mask
Medical professionals are obligated to "do no harm," but anesthesia errors can cause significant injuries. 

To prove negligence on the part of an anesthesiologist or other medical professional, your attorney will hire an expert medical witness. This person will review and consider the surgical notes written by the doctor, your pre-operative risk factors, and the type of anesthesia used in during the procedure. This type of witness can be an excellent asset to your medical malpractice lawsuit.

Contact Our Law Firm Today

If you or a loved one has experienced complications or trauma due to the negligence of a medical professional, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. At Wagar Richard Kutcher Tygier & Luminais, LLP, we can help you receive compensation for your pain and suffering.  Contact us online, or call our office at (504) 830-3838 to schedule your consultation. 

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