Surgery is an amazing human development. Modern medicine allows skilled doctors to render someone unconscious in a few short seconds. In doing so, the doctor can open up the human body without the patient suffering horrendous pain. In many instances, doctors can correct problems quickly and easily. This has tremendous benefits. Patients can recover from many illnesses including cancer after the doctor has completed their work. While contemporary developments in anesthesiology provide people with the ability to overcome potentially life threatening illness, it is not without risks. Over the course of a person’s lifetime, the vast majority of us will undergo some form of local or general anesthetic sedation. Skilled doctors can provide the assistance patients need. If they do not adhere to the highest possible medical standards demanded by their profession, it is possible for many things to go wrong. In that case, patients are entitled to seek legal redress and appropriate compensation.
If you experienced injury due to an error with anesthesia, you could seek compensation for the expenses and effects of the incident through a medical malpractice claim. An experienced Chicago Anesthesiology Errors Lawyer from Zayed Law Offices can help you understand this process. Call us at (312) 883-6907 for your free case evaluation.
Chicago Anesthesiology Errors Guide
Zayed Law Offices Can Help
The more than 100 medical facilities in Chicago include the top-rated University of Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial. At all area facilities that perform surgeries, administering anesthesia is a regular part of the day. However, anesthesia is not without its risks, and several complications can arise even with correctly administered medicine.
Unfortunately, careless or reckless actions by the providers who administer anesthesia can also cause major physical issues for the patient. They can even give rise to a medical malpractice claim
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Though we cannot guarantee the outcome of any case, we feel our track record demonstrates our capabilities.
These are just a few examples of awards we have recovered for our clients:
- $950,000 in a medical malpractice case
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These are just a few examples of the outcomes we’ve achieved. Visit our case results page for an extended list of awards or call us to get your free case evaluation.
What Are the Most Common Anesthesia Errors to Occur?
With more than 40 million surgical procedures conducted in the U.S. each year, human error is the most common cause of anesthesia errors. Some common types of human error include:
Medication Dosing Errors
Medication dosing errors are among the most common in a hospital setting. These errors can either result in the patient receiving too much anesthetic, which can result in overdose-type complications, or not enough anesthetic, resulting in the patient waking up during surgery.
During surgical procedures, medication dosing errors often occur during the middle of the procedure as a result of issues such as:
- An anesthesiologist with inadequate experience in determining how much medication is required. This accounts for around 16 percent of all anesthesia dosing errors.
- Lack of familiarity with the equipment, causing the provider to administer too much or too little.
- Inattention or carelessness during the procedure.
Often, medication dosing errors occurring during the provision of anesthesia are the result of the provider’s failure to monitor the rate at which the anesthetic is flowing through the IV.
Another common anesthesia error occurs when the residual anesthetic builds up in the patient’s IV line. The patient can inadvertently receive this medication when the lines are flushed. This issue also increases the risk of contaminants entering the patient’s body through the IV line.
Ineffective Management of Post-Op Pain
For medical providers, there is often a balancing act while managing postoperative pain. The key is to provide pain relief without risking the patient becoming nauseous from the medication. While many providers have gone from using a pump or patient-controlled apparatus to dispense postoperative medication in favor of the fewer risks and increased patient satisfaction. Local anesthetics are not without risks, of course. Nerve damage or infection at the injection site may result from local anesthetics.
Improper Monitoring of the Patient Before, During, and After Anesthesia
Providers who administer anesthesia for a surgical procedure must provide the patient with instructions on how to prepare for the surgery. These instructions often include fasting to avoid vomiting while the body’s reflexes temporarily stop. Vomiting during surgery can cause the patient to choke. Worse, vomit may enter the airway and cause damage to the patient’s lungs.
When the surgery is underway, the anesthesiologist must consistently monitor the patient to look for signs that they are waking up and need additional medication or that they are in distress due to the drug or procedure. Upon completing surgery, the patient requires monitoring while they awaken properly, the staff manages their pain and vital signs, and they don’t show signs of infection.
Some anesthesia errors result from poor documentation. Poor documentation may include completing the surgical procedures section of the patient’s anesthesia record before the surgery is complete, errors in the surgeon’s documentation requesting pain management medication, and unclear documentation about the level of drug administration.
Complications as a Result of Anesthesiology Errors
Complications from the administration of anesthesiology vary according to multiple factors. All anesthesiology drugs must be handled carefully and administered in the right doses. Local anesthetic, for example, can cause a person’s heartbeat to beat too fast and leave them with lasting neurological issues. It can also cause nerve damage if the medical provider administers it too close to the spinal column. General anesthesia is even more dangerous. It requires careful administration and then close monitoring to make sure the patient’s vital signs do not get damaged. Too much anesthesia and the patient can easily go into cardiac stress, suffer a stroke or even die as a result of the doctor’s lack of attention. Patients who are receiving general anesthesia are also in danger from a procedure known as intubation. This is when patients are reliant on a breathing tube to breath as they cannot do so when under anesthesia. If this tube is improperly inserted, the patient can be danger of inhaling liquids instead of being able to breathe. A patient may literally suffocate because the anesthesiologist failed to follow standard medical practices.
Types of Errors
A study by the experts at Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois found that such errors can be classified into certain categories. About one third of all anesthesiology errors resulted in respiratory events. Roughly another third led to cardiac problems in patients. Doctors who failed to provide the correct dose of medication for their patients were responsible for about ten percent of all anesthesiology errors. Another ten percent of all such errors stemmed from equipment related issues. This statistics are disheartening. The experts found that such errors can be reduced or even prevented by following certain procedures. In general, the best way to protect the patient’s health while under sedation is by making sure the patient is observed by a trained doctor. While computer based monitoring has a place, it has vast limitations that may lead to a patient needlessly suffering. The computer lacks the understanding of the patient’s body that the trained physician brings to the table during a surgical procedure.
Researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information spoke closely to many medical professionals involved in the administration of anesthesia. They found that the vast majority of such errors were from human error. Very few were the result of machine failure. The experts made several recommendations that officials should follow in order to make sure the highest possible standards are upheld and patient safety is a priority. They believe it is best to have improved technical training on all aspects of anesthesia as well as careful supervision and organization. Doctor and other medical professionals were cautioned to be mindful of the need to be especially careful with sicker patients as such errors were more common in such individuals.
Are All Anesthesia Errors Considered Malpractice?
The administration of anesthesia is prone to complications. These complications are known, and doctors are legally required to disclose them before performing the procedure. Known complications do not give rise to medical malpractice claims, and not all errors do either. For a valid medical malpractice claim, the error must result in an injury to the patient.
Seeking Compensation for an Anesthesiology Error
Individuals who were injured due to an anesthesiology error in Chicago can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their injury through a medical malpractice claim. If the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to pay the claim in full or makes an unfair settlement offer, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the injury. Failing to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations will generally result in the claimant forfeiting the use of the civil court process to seek compensation.
Certificate of Merit
Before filing a medical malpractice claim in court, the claimant must attach an affidavit stating that their attorney consulted with a knowledgeable health care professional with experience in the type of medicine pertinent to the case and that the professional found the claim to have merit.
Chicago Anesthesia Errors FAQ
Like most people, you may get nervous when you think about a surgeon cutting into your body. Some of that anxiety usually begins when the anesthesiologist walks into the room. They talk about keeping you comfortable and pain-free. Then they give you powerful drugs to make you lose consciousness and stay that way. Just like other medical professionals, anesthesiologists sometimes commit errors that cause serious harm. If this happens to you, our Chicago anesthesia error lawyers determine if your anesthesiologist owes you compensation.
Except for those few moments before surgery, you probably think very little about your anesthesiologist. As you slip into unconsciousness, you don’t want to consider the potential for an anesthesia error.
At Zayed Law Offices, we understand your drive to remain positive, but we also believe that you should know the facts. That’s why we created our Chicago Anesthesia Errors FAQ. If you or your loved one undergo anesthesia, you should know your legal rights if your anesthesiologist commits an error.
How Can We Protect Your Legal Rights?
At Zayed Law Offices, our seasoned lawyers deal with medical negligence cases daily. We understand that when a medical professional harms you, they often keep that knowledge to themselves. When our firm forms an attorney/client relationship with you, we review your medical records, determine the facts, and present your case. When appropriate, we do what is necessary to recover compensation on your behalf.
What is an anesthesia error?
An anesthesia error occurs when an anesthesiologist commits a negligent act or omission. An error doesn’t always harm a patient, but when it does, medical professionals often call it an “adverse event.” Anesthesiologists work cooperatively with surgeons, but they have separate and distinct roles and duties. They must plan and prepare for each task. A failure at any point has the potential for patient harm.
An anesthesiologist must:
- Acquire an updated medical history
- Rule out medical issues that affect anesthesia performance: health conditions, medications, drugs, nutritional supplements, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.
- Consider prior anesthesia problems
- Plan the patient’s anesthesia: timing, duration, type of medications, and quantity
- Develop an airway management plan: intubation while awake or unconscious; rigid intubation endoscope versus flexible fiberoptic bronchoscope
- Recognize problems and intervene as they occur: patient awareness during surgery, remaining unconscious too long
- Explain procedures and potential complications, and provide an informed consent form
How do anesthesia errors occur?
Anesthesiologists prepare a drug “cocktail” based on their patient’s needs. This cocktail often includes an injectable and intravenous drug combination. The anesthesiologist monitors patients during the procedure to prevent problems.
Human and device errors play a significant role in causing anesthesia errors.
- Improper Dose Calculation: Overdosing, underdosing, improper dilution, drug omission
- Wrong Medication: Using a syringe intended for a different patient
- Misread Vial or Syringe Labels: Administering the incorrect medication due to mislabeling
- Inappropriate pump or device programming: Using incorrect medical equipment
- Inadequate Information: Not getting enough background information to avoid drug interactions or health-related issues
- Inappropriate Patient Classification: Not classifying preoperative risk based on the ASA Physical Status Classification System
- Inappropriate intubation: Using the wrong method based on the patient’s needs
- Distraction and Fatigue: Working long hours and multiple duties
- Inadequate Training: Not obtaining and perfecting techniques through on-the-job training
The American Society of Anesthesiologists’ article “Cognitive Processes in Anesthesiology Decision Making” explains how fast, complex decisions are susceptible to cognitive-based errors. Instead of relying solely on data and information, some medical professionals make “non-rational” decisions based on personal preferences, overconfidence, biases, emotional influences, and other cognitive processes.
What types of anesthesia do doctors use?
Doctors choose anesthesia based on the type of surgery and the patient’s needs.
- Local: Dentists, plastic surgeons, and other medical professionals rely on local anesthesia for many procedures. They block pain in the procedural area only. The patient remains awake.
- Regional: Regional anesthesia performs like local anesthesia but blocks pain in a wider area.
- General: This type of anesthetic affects the patient’s whole body. It renders them unconscious and prevents movement. Surgeons use general anesthesia when they perform long, invasive surgeries, often those affecting internal organs.
How frequently do anesthesia errors occur?
A recent study, Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Involving Anesthesiology Residents, explains that few organizations study resident anesthesiologist malpractice issues. Researchers reviewed the Westlaw database for paid malpractice cases involving interns. Of the 2386 original cases found, 90 fit their parameters.
From these cases, they documented.
- Anesthesiology residents had an overall malpractice rate of 11.7 per 1,000 physician years.
- First-year residents were involved in 73 percent of the reviewed cases.
- Most incidents—59 percent—occurred in the perioperative period, before surgery begins.
- Of the cases reviewed, 83 percent of the patients sustained permanent or fatal injuries.
What injuries do anesthesia errors cause?
General anesthesia affects the entire body, so it has more potential for harm. Errors involve a wide variety of injuries.
Sometimes, they occur due to failed communication with patients about pre-existing conditions.
- Nerve injury: temporary and sometimes permanent
- Intubation injuries: vocal cord injuries and immobility, ulcers, inflammation
- Anoxic Brain Injury: anesthesia cuts off the brain’s oxygen supply, a rare event
- Delirium or Cognitive Dysfunction: more common in older patients, often causes long-term memory and learning problems
- Breathing Difficulties: often a problem for obstructive apnea patients
- Hypoxia: impaired oxygenation often due to existing medical conditions
- Arrhythmia: cardiac electrical activity disruption, a common anesthesia issue
- Seizure: problematic for patients with epilepsy, even with nonconvulsive anesthetics
- Malignant Hyperthermia: fever and muscle contractions due to a congenital adverse reaction to anesthesia
Can I file a lawsuit if my anesthesiologist commits an error?
If your anesthesiologist injures you during a procedure, you may have a right to recover compensation. The Illinois Compiled Statutes explain your legal rights and the formal malpractice process. Before you file a lawsuit, your attorney must find a medical expert willing to provide a corroborating affidavit.
How much time do I have to file an anesthesia error lawsuit In Illinois?
You have two to four years to settle a claim or file a lawsuit after the injury. Your time frame depends on age, circumstances, and when you discover your anesthesiologist’s error.
An anesthesia error lawsuit is a medical malpractice case. Your statute of limitations considers whether you knew or should have known about your anesthesiologist’s role in harming you. It also considers whether you received written notice about the error. If you are a minor or disabled, talk to your attorney about additional exceptions to Illinois’s malpractice statute of limitations law.
Your statute of limitations is a critical deadline for your malpractice claim. If you miss it, you lose your right to file a lawsuit for compensation. When you work with our Chicago anesthesia error attorneys, we protect your legal rights and make sure that you meet your important deadlines.
Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Yes, you do. If an anesthesiologist committed an error that injured you, do not try to handle the legal issues alone. When you establish a working relationship with Zayed Law Offices, we take immediate steps to protect your legal rights. Our attorneys work to resolve the legal and procedural issues and take steps to recover any compensation you deserve.
For your free case evaluation, call us or leave a detailed message on our contact page.
Did an Anesthesia Error Cause You Harm?
An injury as a result of improper use of anesthesiology can be truly devastating. The patient may suffer physical, emotional and psychological damage because of a doctor’s neglect. Under such circumstances, it is understandable that patients may feel a sense of anger and loss. This is why is imperative for all patients who have suffered from such a loss to seek professional legal help. Our firm can help. We offer the kind of legal assistance that all patients and their loved one need in the aftermath of an anesthesiology error. We bring many years of experience for all of our clients. Our team of experts will fight for your right to be compensated for your injuries in full. We stay on top of all the latest medical developments, enabling us to make sure your case is heard and backed up by proper scientific evidence.
If you suffered an injury due to an error that occurred during the administration of anesthesia, let an experienced medical malpractice attorney from Zayed Law Offices evaluate your claim for free. Contact us online or by calling (312) 883-6907. We are standing by to help.