What You Need to Know About Anesthesia Malpractice in Maryland

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on June 13, 2023 and updated on July 10, 2023.

doctor administering anesthesiaEach year, doctors use anesthesia for millions of surgeries and medical procedures without any problems. Despite this track record for safety, catastrophic, life-altering injuries still occur. Unfortunately, many of these injuries were the result of anesthesia malpractice and they could have been prevented.

Victims of anesthesia malpractice or their loved ones may be able to file a lawsuit for compensation. If you think you may have a case, you need to talk about it with a medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland.

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we have secured millions in compensation for victims of medical malpractice. This includes a recovery for someone who experienced serious complications after anesthesia was administered.

Call today: 410-297-0271. There are no upfront fees for our services.

What Are the Three Types of Anesthesia?

There are three types of anesthesia medical professionals use during surgery:

Local Anesthesia

Doctors use local anesthesia for minimally invasive procedures, like biopsies, mole removal or stitching up a wound. Local anesthesia numbs a specific body part to prevent the patient from feeling pain while the doctor operates. Local anesthesia is much less risky than regional or general anesthesia.

Regional Anesthesia

This is like local anesthesia except it numbs a much larger area of the body. Doctors use regional anesthesia for a procedure like an epidural or a spinal block. They may also use regional anesthesia to numb a limb they are operating on.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia causes patients to lose consciousness, preventing them from feeling any pain while doctors operate. This type of anesthesia carries the greatest risk. Doctors need to make sure patients are getting enough oxygen or they can suffer traumatic brain injury or death.

What is Anesthesia Malpractice?

Anesthesia malpractice refers to a failure to uphold the standard of care when using anesthesia on a patient. The standard of care is the level of care that would be provided by another medical professional of similar background who has comparable skills and medical knowledge.

Anesthesia Malpractice Cases: Examples That Violate the Standard of Care

Anesthesia malpractice encompasses a wide range of actions taken by medical professionals related to the use of anesthesia. Doctors could also commit malpractice through their failure to act, either before surgery or after anesthesia has been administered.

The best way to explain anesthesia malpractice is to provide examples of actions that might constitute malpractice:

  • Failure to give proper instructions – For example, anesthesiologists need to inform patients if they cannot eat or drink for a certain number of hours before the procedure. Anesthesiologists also need to check with the patient to make sure instructions were followed.
  • Failure to obtain and review the patient’s medical history – Doctors need to review the patient’s medical history to determine if he or she is allergic to the type of anesthesia that will be used. Anesthesiologists must make sure the patient is not taking any medications that could cause harmful interactions with the anesthesia.
  • Failure to properly insert or remove a breathing tube – General anesthesia paralyzes the muscles in your diaphragm, which is why doctors need to insert a breathing tube. If the tube is not placed properly, you will not be able to breathe and could suffer permanent brain damage or death. Doctors also need to be cautious when removing a breathing tube. Removing it too soon could deprive the patient of oxygen.
  • Failure to use the appropriate dose – Providing too little anesthesia will not prevent the patient from waking up. They may wake up in the middle of surgery, which can cause severe emotional and psychological distress. However, using too much anesthesia could cause the patient to slip into a coma or suffer serious organ damage.
  • Failure to monitor the patient appropriately – One of the most important jobs of any anesthesiologist is to closely monitor the patient during surgery. Doctors need to make sure the patient is receiving enough oxygen and respond appropriately if any problems arise. One example is if the patient’s blood pressure drops too low for too long. Failing to respond quickly could result in catastrophic brain damage or death. Sometimes doctors do not respond because monitoring equipment has been turned off or the alarm sound has been muted.

Other examples of anesthesia malpractice include:

  • Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during surgery
  • Failing to give the patient instructions after surgery
  • Leaving a patient unattended while still under anesthesia
  • Waiting too long to administer anesthesia

Injuries That Can Be Caused by Anesthesia Malpractice

When doctors do not use the appropriate level of care when anesthetizing patients, severe injuries could result, including:

  • Death
  • Coma
  • Persistent vegetative state
  • Stroke
  • Permanent brain damage from a lack of oxygen
  • Behavioral/emotional problems (post-traumatic stress, anxiety, insomnia, etc.)
  • Damage to the trachea
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Nerve damage in the esophagus
  • Nerve damage in the neck
  • Blood clot
  • Heart attack
  • Anaphylaxis

Sometimes the injuries caused by anesthesia malpractice are more minor, such as nausea and vomiting. Some victims may also experience some amount of confusion or delirium after the procedure.

When Can I File an Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit?

This is a question that can be answered by our experienced lawyers in a free legal consultation. We need to establish that the medical professionals who provided treatment did not perform up to the standard of care. We also need to prove that doctors’ malpractice was the direct cause of your injuries and damages.

It takes time to build a strong medical malpractice case, and the law imposes a deadline for filing a lawsuit. That is why victims need to contact a lawyer right away.

What if the Patient Has Existing Medical Issues?

One of the defenses the liable parties may use is claiming you had existing medical issues that caused complications from anesthesia. For example, the following conditions can raise the risk of complications during the administration of anesthesia:

  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney/renal disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic pulmonary disease

However, doctors are required to take note of the patient’s medical history before surgery. If a procedure carries too many risks, moving forward with surgery may be deemed malpractice. If doctors go ahead with a high-risk surgery, they have an obligation to carefully monitor the patient for complications. They needed to be extra careful because of the patient’s preexisting medical issues.

Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice? Call For Legal Help

There are risks with any surgery, including complications that may result from anesthesia. That said, some risks are unreasonable, and doctors are supposed to take steps to protect patients from those risks. When doctors do not take the appropriate steps to fulfill the standard of care, they can be held liable.

If you have questions about anesthesia malpractice, our experienced attorneys are here to answer them and explain how we can help you take legal action. Doctors should be held accountable for malpractice, and you should be compensated if you were injured.

These cases are complicated, and you need an experienced firm with a history of results to recover the compensation you deserve.

Experienced Lawyers. Millions Recovered. Call us at 410-297-0271.