Can I Sue for Anesthesia Complications?

If complications develop from too much anesthesia, a bad reaction, or another issue, you may be able to sue medical professionals for malpractice under certain circumstances. Before you decide to sue for anesthesia complications, it’s important to understand the different types of errors and what to expect with the legal process.

A group of doctors performing a surgery.

The Different Types of Anesthesia

Before getting into the specific types of errors that can result from anesthesia, you should know about the different types of anesthesia. The three main types of anesthesia include:

Local Anesthesia

Doctors, dermatologists, dentists, and other medical professionals may use local anesthesia to render a specific area of the body numb before completing procedures. For instance, a dentist might use local anesthesia before filling a cavity or a doctor may apply it prior to sewing stitches. While this type of anesthesia doesn’t often result in complications, patients may have bad reactions to certain drugs used for local anesthesia.

General Anesthesia

Medical professionals may also apply general anesthesia for more extensive procedures. This type of anesthesia makes a patient entirely unconscious before surgery and other procedures, and it comes with higher risks than other types. Under general anesthesia, many patients are unable to breathe without assistive devices and require close monitoring of their condition throughout the procedure.

Regional Anesthesia

If a patient doesn’t require general anesthesia but needs something stronger than local anesthesia, medical professionals may administer regional anesthesia. This anesthesia normally entails injecting the anesthesia in a single dose or over time to numb specific regions of the body.

Types of Anesthesia Errors

Based on the specific type of anesthesia used, certain types of errors could occur. These could include the following:


Patients under general anesthesia might experience aspiration during surgery or other procedures. This is a condition when patients are unable to swallow while under anesthesia, which could lead them to vomit into their lungs as liquids are unable to travel out of the mouth. Subsequently, patients may choke, resulting in injuries to the lungs or death.

Pre-Surgery Errors

Another type of error may be pre-surgical when medical professionals such as anesthesiologists fail to take the proper steps to prepare a patient before surgery. For example, the professional may neglect to communicate the nature of the procedure and the use of anesthesia, or he or she may not closely look at a patient’s medical history. The latter issue may lead to the administering of anesthesia to which the patient has a bad reaction.

Anesthesia Awareness

Another potential problem with general anesthesia is anesthesia awareness. This occurs when a patient becomes conscious during a procedure when he or she should remain unconscious. This could take place if an anesthesiologist fails to administer the proper dose of anesthesia before and during a procedure. The patient may also be unable to communicate in any way upon awakening and could experience significant levels of pain, leading to lasting trauma following the procedure.

Intubation and Extubation Errors

Patients under general anesthesia may also experience issues involving intubation or extubation if patients need breathing assistance. Without properly performing the intubation or extubation procedure, errors can occur that cause serious injury to the patient, which could include suffocation as the patient is unable to breathe on his or her own.

Improper Monitoring

Depending on the type of anesthesia given to a patient, medical professionals may need to closely monitor the dosage and the patient’s condition while under. For instance, anesthesiologists may need to measure vitals such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and more. Failure to do so could lead to issues during procedures.

Dosage Errors

Medical professionals could also commit dosage errors, whether administering local, general, or regional anesthesia. Anesthesiologists in particular must ensure that patients receive the correct dosage to prevent issues. With too little general anesthesia, for instance, patients may experience anesthesia awareness during surgical procedures, while administering too much could lead to respiratory distress, coma, or even death.

What Are the Side Effects of Too Much Anesthesia?

If a patient receives too much anesthesia, there are some side effects they may experience that indicate an overdose. 

Some common signs that a medical professional has given you too much anesthesia include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Physical or mental impairment
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hallucinations
  • Dementia

Overdoses could also lead to more serious complications, including brain injuries. Additionally, patients may suffer symptoms long after the anesthesia has worn off. 

How to Sue for Anesthesia Complications

If you or a loved one suffers from anesthesia complications, you might wonder how to sue for surgery complications. Depending on the specific circumstances involved, you may be able to file a lawsuit for anesthesiologist malpractice or malpractice involving another medical professional.

When filing a medical malpractice lawsuit of any kind, you must prove a few key items. First, you will need to prove that the anesthesiologist or another professional owed you a duty of care. This entails proving that you had established a doctor-patient relationship, typically in written form.

You will then need to show that the medical professional breached this duty through negligence. Also, you must prove that this breach of duty caused specific damages to you or a loved one.

There are several potential damages that victims might suffer in medical malpractice cases. These damages are categorized into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include specific financial losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and lost earning capacity because of a disability. Meanwhile, non-economic losses could include physical or psychological distress that victims sustain. 

In addition to economic and non-economic damages, some victims of medical malpractice may be able to recover punitive damages. The court awards these damages if defendants engaged in gross negligence or malicious behavior, which could warrant punishment to prevent future incidents from occurring. 

If you want to file an anesthesiologist lawsuit or a medical malpractice suit against another medical professional, it’s important to consult with an attorney who has experience with these matters. A dependable medical malpractice lawyer will be able to review the facts in your case and help gauge your chances of winning a medical malpractice suit

Indicators of Medical Malpractice

If you’re not sure whether you have a medical malpractice claim, there are some common signs of medical malpractice to look for, which could indicate that you have a valid case.

Some of these signs include:

The Anesthesia or Other Treatment Isn’t Working

If you have undergone anesthesia, but the drug isn’t working as intended, this could indicate malpractice. Anesthesiologists may have failed to administer the correct dose or applied the incorrect treatment. This can also occur with other treatments or medications,

The Treatment Doesn’t Correspond With Your Diagnosis

Another sign of medical malpractice is the treatment that doesn’t work based on your diagnosis. For example, your doctor may advise surgery or certain prescription medications that come with serious side effects and, ultimately, don’t work for medical conditions that aren’t serious. In other cases, doctors may not prescribe sufficient treatment to treat more aggressive ailments.

A Second Opinion Contradicted Your Original Diagnosis

You may want to seek a second opinion from another medical professional after the first provides a diagnosis. This second opinion may differ from the original and indicate a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose your condition. In turn, this could help show that the first doctor engaged in malpractice. A third opinion from another professional may further help prove malpractice.

Surgical Errors

Although surgeons or other professionals may make mistakes during surgery and admit to these errors, patients may uncover errors after completing the surgical procedure. For instance, you might experience worrying symptoms after you have awakened from surgery and the anesthesia has worn off. These symptoms may reveal that doctors committed an error before, during, or shortly after a surgical procedure.

Neglecting to Order More Than Basic Lab Tests

Another form of malpractice may involve the failure to provide patients with more extensive testing as required. Some medical conditions may not be detectable in basic lab tests, requiring doctors to dig deeper to identify the root cause of symptoms. If your doctor doesn’t order more advanced tests and yet you still suffer from serious symptoms, this could be a sign of malpractice.


If a hospital or another facility is unable to provide proper care because of understaffing issues, this is also indicative of malpractice.

These and other signs might indicate that an anesthesiologist, doctor, or another medical professional has engaged in medical malpractice. Generally, if you believe that malpractice has taken place involving anesthesia complications, you may be able to sue those responsible for medical errors. Consulting with an attorney and looking over your case could help you better determine what your options are when it comes to suing for malpractice.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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