Patients who undergo surgical procedures and suffer anesthesia aspiration are at risk for severe health complications and even death. If medical negligence is the cause, the patient can file a lawsuit for anesthesia aspiration to recover compensation for damages.
Understanding Anesthesia Aspiration
Generally, most surgical procedures performed by doctors, dentists, and cosmetic surgeons require general anesthesia prior to surgery. Within the medical profession, this is standard practice to make sure that patients do not feel pain and remain asleep, still, and calm during the procedure. It’s common for surgery patients to feel afraid and anxious before a surgical procedure, but many patients do not realize the risk factors caused by anesthesia aspiration.
Before any surgical procedure takes place, it is the anesthesiologist’s job to ensure that the patient understands the surgical process, as well as the potential risks of general anesthesia. The anesthesiologist is responsible for administering all medications, monitoring the patient during and after the surgical procedure, and ensuring everything goes as planned. Typically, the patient signs a consent form prior to surgery acknowledging that his/her associated risks have been explained, and he/she accepts the risks and wants to proceed with the surgery.
Most risks associated with general anesthesia like chills, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and a sore throat caused by a breathing tube are minor and temporary. However, patients who suffer anesthesia aspiration often experience severe, life-threatening symptoms including:
- Brain damage caused by lack of oxygen to the brain
- Cardiac arrest and/or stroke
- Long-term memory loss
- Lung damage
- Organ damage
Patients at higher risk for anesthesia aspiration include those with dysphagia; poor gag reflexes; weak cough reflexes; weak swallowing muscles; cerebral palsy; muscular dystrophy; and Parkinson’s disease.
Causes of Aspiration
Anesthesia aspiration occurs when a patient’s stomach liquids or solids inadvertently enter the patient’s air passages and then go into the lungs. If this occurs during surgery, a sedated patient is not able to clear any type of obstruction, because general anesthesia usually administered through an IV or mask renders patients temporarily unconscious. The medications used for general anesthesia paralyze a patient’s muscles, including those that make it possible to breathe. This is why patients require ventilators to do the work of the diaphragm and other muscles that make it possible to inhale and exhale. To protect patients from injuries and death, it’s imperative that anesthesiologists carefully monitor patients under general anesthesia.
Common causes of patient injuries from anesthesia aspiration during surgery include the following:
- Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
- Administering too little or too much anesthesia
- Delaying anesthesia
- Failure to recognize allergic or drug reactions
- Failure to monitor the patient during or after surgery
- Use of defective medical equipment
Patients who suffer injuries due to these anesthesia errors can sue for anesthesia aspiration. These errors may be grounds to file a lawsuit for anesthesia aspiration. A medical malpractice lawyer who understands these types of cases can file an aspiration during surgery lawsuit to pursue compensation for anesthesiologist malpractice. Can you sue for surgery complications? Yes, you can, if they result from negligence or malpractice.
If the patient dies due to his/her surgical procedure, the lawyer can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the patient’s family members. Medical malpractice deaths caused by medical errors happen much more often than most people realize. In the United States, medical errors are the third leading cause of patient fatalities. Deaths from medical errors account for approximately 250,000 patient deaths each year, that’s 700 deaths each day. Unfortunately, many of these deaths go unreported because medical errors are not the suspected cause. This is especially true for patients who suffer anesthesia death while undergoing some type of surgical procedure. It does not occur to unsuspecting patients and family members to file a lawsuit for anesthesia aspiration.
Does Aspiration Mean Medical Negligence Occurred?
Although anesthesia aspiration does occur during surgery, it does not automatically mean medical negligence occurred. Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose a medical problem is another deadly form of medical malpractice for many patients.
To file a lawsuit for anesthesia aspiration, you must show credible proof of medical negligence. To file an anesthesiologist lawsuit, you must prove that the anesthesiologist was directly responsible for your injuries by some act of medical negligence. Examples of anesthesiologist negligence may be ignoring patient contraindications or symptoms prior to surgery such as nausea, vomiting, indigestion, or stomach bloating. Since inhaling stomach contents can cause aspiration pneumonia, anesthesiologists must ensure that patients have not ingested any food or drink for a specified number of hours prior to a surgical procedure.
Other medical errors may include choosing the wrong anesthesia or anesthetic procedure for the patient, failing to properly intubate the patient, delaying intubation, or failing to take necessary steps to prevent aspiration. Further, failing to recognize a patient’s existing health conditions that make the patient at higher risk for anesthesia aspiration may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. These may include existing conditions like heart disease, swallowing problems, muscular dystrophy, or Parkinson’s disease, as well as a previous history of cardiac distress, stroke, infections, or pneumonia. Patients undergoing surgery on the chest are especially vulnerable to anesthesia aspiration. For these patients, an anesthesiologist may need to insert an endotracheal tube to ensure the patient’s airway remains open and unobstructed to prevent breathing problems.
Medical negligence is defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care with a patient that another medical professional would exercise in like circumstances. While medical negligence is usually linked to patient harm caused by carelessness, medical malpractice is usually linked to physician errors or omissions. To file a lawsuit for anesthesia aspiration, the law looks at what caused the mistakes, the patient’s treatment plan or procedure, the physician’s decisions, and the medical safety protocols that were in place during the patient’s treatment. Medical malpractice lawsuits are often complicated, so it’s best to seek legal advice from a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer who knows related laws and the filing requirements within the state.