According to recent reports, intubation errors are one of the leading causes for medical malpractice lawsuits in the United States. This has caused some surprise as most people assume that medical malpractice cases are more often tied to surgical errors or misdiagnosis. Instead, it seems that anesthesiologists are much more frequently targeted in medical malpractice cases. These healthcare professionals are responsible to giving safe and effective care for patients before, during, and after procedures. Unfortunately, anesthesia errors are common and they can happen in multiple settings including hospitals, urgent care facilities, and even dental clinics.
The most common anesthesia errors involve intubation. Patients who are intubated have an endotracheal tube inserted to provide breathing assistance. The tube is connected to a ventilator machine, which regulates oxygen flow to maintain safe and consistent levels for a patient who is under general anesthesia or who is unable to breathe independently.
Several things can go wrong with intubation. One of the most common causes is simple negligence. Intubation requires close and careful patient monitoring with continuous adjustments to the ventilator to insure proper oxygen levels. Patients can also sustain injuries during intubation, where the airway is compromised or injured.
Anesthesia errors can also include problems with drug interactions or allergic reactions. These types of complications are fairly common and improper anesthesia administration can lead to significant nerve damage, blood pressure problems, and even death.
There are four general types of anesthesia where errors can occur. Under general anesthesia, a patient is unconscious and relies fully on the healthcare providers to monitor all vital signs. Under general anesthesia, patients are sometimes intubated. Regional anesthesia is used to numb a particular region of the body, such as an entire leg or an arm. Local anesthesia provides numbing on smaller areas, like around a wound during a dermatologist treatments or around a tooth during an extraction. Spinal and epidural anesthesia is given through an injection placed close to the spinal cord. This is often used during childbirth for pain management.
Sometimes anesthesia errors can be fatal. The most severe anesthesia complication is a prolonged loss of oxygen. Within just a few short minutes without oxygen, patients can suffer from serious and long-term brain damage. Known as cerebral hypoxia, this depletion of oxygen is one of the most common intubation errors that leads to medical malpractice lawsuits around the nation.
“It’s always scary to face a medical procedure that requires general anesthesia or intubation,” said Tampa attorney Christopher Ligori. “The increase in intubation errors makes it even more alarming for patients that are facing upcoming procedures.”
Medical malpractice attorneys can assist patients and their families after intubation errors. If you or a loved one has experienced life altering consequences of an anesthesia error, consult a medical malpractice attorney for assistance. Your attorney will explain your legal rights and help you gather the medical records and evidence needed to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional suffering.