It is normal for most surgeries to require some type of anesthesia, but the use of anesthesia comes with great risks. This is why anesthesia administration needs to be done with great precision, and patients on anesthesia need to be monitored with great care. The frightening truth is that errors and complications do occur during and after the administration of anesthesia, which can result in brain damage and other tragic consequences for the patient.
Although there are three different types of anesthesia—local, regional, and general—errors made while patients are under general anesthesia are often the most serious. With general anesthesia, patients are put to sleep during their surgeries. And although anesthesiologists often tell patients the side effects associated with the use of general anesthesia, the risks—such as brain damage and death—are often skipped over. Even for elective surgeries or routine surgeries, there are risks associated with the administration of anesthesia.
Can Anesthesia Cause Brain Damage?
Anesthesia can cause lasting effects during surgery. When a patient is “put under” with anesthesia, they are subjected to a wide range of general anesthetics. Each person can be impacted in a wide variety of ways and it can result in undesirable effects or long-lasting impacts. In short, anesthesia can cause brain damage if there are complications involved in the surgery.
Anesthesia Errors and Brain Damage
Although anesthesiologists are supposed to monitor patients’ blood pressure, blood fluid levels, and other vital statistics during surgery, sometimes anesthesiologists:
- Are distracted
- Leave the room
- Turn off alarm signals
- Fail to monitor patients closely
Also, anesthesiologists may make other critical mistakes, such as giving patients too much medication or the wrong medication. When an anesthesiologist is negligent in any of these ways, a patient can suffer a stroke, oxygen deprivation, or other tragic complications which lead to lasting brain damage. Here are some examples of anesthesia malpractice that can cause brain damage:
- Failure to notice when a patient has vomited during surgery
During surgery, it is possible for patients to vomit and inhale the vomit in their lungs. When the significance of what had happened isn’t recognized, the vomit can lead to labored breathing and decreased oxygen in the blood and brain (known as hypoxia or hypoxic brain injury). Consequently, a patient in this situation can suffer brain damage as well as other injuries.
- Failure to monitor blood flow to the brain
During surgery, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain needs to continue so that the brain cells will live. This is one of an anesthesiologist’s main jobs during surgery. When an anesthesiologist is negligent, it is possible for a patient to lose blood fluid during surgery, which leads to a loss of blood flow to the brain. As a result, the patient could suffer strokes to both side of the brain—leading to irreversible brain damage.
- Failure to intubate patients correctly
Anesthesiologists often have to intubate patients during surgery. Intubation is when a tube is placed into the trachea (windpipe) to keep the airway open, allowing a patient under general anesthesia to breathe. When an anesthesiologist fails to intubate a patient correctly, fails to secure an intubation tube, or prematurely removes the tube (extubation), airway problems can occur that can lead to oxygen deprivation and brain damage.
- Failure to monitor patients following surgery
Sometimes patients are given too much anesthesia during surgery and need to be monitored longer than the surgical center is open. When this happens, an anesthesiologist may admit the patient to the hospital overnight to be monitored. However, the hospital may erroneously assign the patient to a regular floor where there aren’t electronic monitors to verify a patient’s breathing and oxygen levels. Consequently, a patient may stop breathing and be deprived of oxygen for hours until the next nurse comes in to check vitals. Even if doctors are successful in reviving the patient, the outcome may be irreversible brain damage.
What’s tragic is that all these anesthesia errors are preventable. Sadly, they occur because anesthesiologists are negligent and careless.
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It's important to choose the right medical malpractice attorney when pursuing your case. Medical malpractice is a complicated area of law, so you should take care when selecting a lawyer.
Our attorneys handle cases involving anesthesia errors in which patients have sustained brain damage. If you or a loved one has suffered brain damage due to an anesthesia error or other medical mishap, you need to learn about your rights to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. In this type of lawsuit, we seek the maximum available compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering