As you might expect the biggest problem with anesthesia is giving too much medication causes an overdose that can lead to brain injury or death. You can't help but wonder: how can this happen?
Here are some common anesthesia overdose medical malpractice scenarios in Maryland:
- An overdose of anesthesia is given while switching from one potent inhalation agent to another during the maintenance phase of the anesthesia.
- The vaporizer delivering the anesthesia is out of calibration and delivered more anesthetic agent. There is no doubt that the anesthesiologist needs to step up and make sure the device is giving what it should.
- Not accounting for the size of the plaintiff. Often children cannot handle the size dose of the agent that a grown adult could. The problem here is giving too much medication and it is often compounded by not seeing the signs of trouble when too much anesthesia has been administered.
- Giving two or more anesthesia agents that, taken alone, would not cause harm but together put the patient at grave risk
There are many overdose type claims that never rise to the surface because the mistake gets caught long before it becomes a life threatening event. In fact, looking at the National Practitioner Data Bank, which collects malpractice outcomes pursuant to federal law, the leading cause of malpractice payments were improver monitoring claims. (Incidentally, this data underscores how serious these claims are. The most common anesthesiologist malpractice payment involved death, quadriplegia, brain injury, and other injury that requires lifelong care. Only 9.4% of the payments were for injuries that resolved. We can assume that many of these are "anesthesia awareness" cases where the patient can feel the pain but can't cry out because of the medication.
Of course, overdose is just one element of these failure to monitor cases. One common type of failure to monitor cases involves improper ventilation. Six percent of all anesthesiologist malpractice claims involve airway obstruction injuries.Why Few Patients Bring Anesthesia Overdose Claims
There are many kinds of medical errors that are hard to cover up. Anesthesia mistakes are not one of them. Many families are told when a patient dies that patient had a heart attack or some other unforeseeable cardiac injury during the operating room table. People just listen to and trust their doctors and that is that. It was a known risk of getting the operation, right? Yes, but it is also a known risk that someone might come across the center line on the road and hit you head on. Many of these "known risk" explanations are just a cover for medical malpractice. You often need to talk to an attorney just to find out what really happened.Sample Verdicts and Settlements
- 2013, Georgia: $17,500,000 Verdict. A 19-year-old plaintiff is undergoing surgery to remove bullet fragments from his jaw and spine when he suddenly emerges from his anesthesia-induced state. The frightened patient became agitated and partially self-excubated, dislodging his nasal endotracheal tube. Plaintiff is then cut off from oxygen for about eight minutes and suffers irreparable brain damage and great pain and suffering. Plaintiff contends that the negligent use of anesthesia allowed him to resurface from the artificial sleep and led to his injuries. A DeKalb County (just outside of Atlanta) jury awards $17.5 million in damages.
- 2010, Maryland: $450,000 Settlement. A 36-year-old plaintiff is undergoing surgery for the removal of an infected sweat gland when she is administered general anesthesia.The patient, however, had a history of pulmonary hypertension and multiple scleroses, which can make general anesthesia life-threating. Shortly after going under, the plaintiff’s blood pressure drops to zero and she cannot be resuscitated. Plaintiff’s estate argues that given the deceased’s medical history, local anesthetic should have been used and that the resistive measures were not timely. Defendant denies blame but the parties reach a $450,000 settlement in Baltimore County.
- 2012, Ohio: $554,022 Verdict. A patient is receiving a total knee replacement surgery when the anesthesiologist inserts a nerve anesthetic. However, instead of placing it around the nerve, the doctor places it directly into the nerve and causes the patient to suffer a femoral nerve injury. Plaintiff’s injuries require physical therapy and inhibit her mobility. The physician denies liability, but plaintiff contends the doctor should have stopped when she complained about the pain. A Hamilton County jury awards the injured $554,022.
- 2009, Maryland: $750,000 Settlement. The plaintiff is rushed to the emergency room where it is discovered that he was suffering from multiple gallstones. Surgery is scheduled the next day. The anesthesiologist and his assistant nurse negligently and incorrectly give an intravenous induction of anesthetic. Plaintiff has a violent reaction and aspirates the contents of his stomach into his lungs. The surgery in canceled and the patient is airlifted to a specialist hospital. Patient develops aspiration pneumonia, suffers a severe hypoxic event, and is placed in a medical induced coma for seven weeks. Plaintiff argues that the doctors should have used the rapid sequence induction due to his obesity. Defendants deny liability and say they used the appropriate standard of care, but the parties reach a quarter million dollar settlement in Howard County.
Our law firm handle health care negligence cases involving death or serious injury. If you or a loved one have sustained a serious injury as a result of an error or mistake you suspect was made by an anesthesiologist, call at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.More Information on Medical Malpractice Claims