Anesthesia Injury

Anesthesia is essential in modern medicine. Most major surgeries would be impossible without anesthetics. However, mistakes by anesthesiologists and other providers who administer anesthesia can cause permanent injury, coma, or even death.

When these injuries result from medical malpractice, you can pursue a claim for injury compensation. This compensation can help cover medical expenses for corrective treatment and any wages you lost while you were recovering from your injuries.

What Are the Effects of Anesthesia on Your Body?

What Are the Effects of Anesthesia on Your Body?

Nerves transmit signals using a combination of electrical and chemical signals. Anesthesia disrupts these signals to block sensations, like pain, from reaching the brain. Anesthetics can be combined with sedatives to render the patient unconscious.

Anesthetics usually work in one of two ways. First, they can prevent nerve cells from producing an electric charge. Normally, cells fire electrically by moving charged sodium ions from inside the cell to its surface through a channel. The firing pattern can represent a command or piece of information.

Sodium-channel blockers prevent the sodium ions from moving through the neuron. If neurons cannot fire electrically, they cannot transmit nerve signals. Procaine, known commercially as Novocain, is an example of a sodium-channel blocker.

Second, chemical neurotransmitters carry messages from neuron to neuron. These chemicals deliver their messages when they fit into a receptor on the receiving neuron. Some anesthetics work by turning receptors on or off.

For example, opioids produce an anesthetic effect by activating opioid receptors, which, in turn, turn off pain receptors. The body still experiences pain and produces pain signals, but those signals never reach the brain because the drugs disable the corresponding receptors.

What Are the Different Types of Anesthesia?

Medical providers use anesthetics to produce three types of effects. Doctors and dentists use local anesthetics to numb the immediate area where the drug is applied. An emergency room doctor or nurse might use lidocaine to numb the skin and muscle to suture a laceration. Similarly, a dentist might use procaine to numb a patient’s mouth for a filling.

Anesthesiologists use regional anesthetics to numb an area of the body. Doctors use the same anesthetics to produce a regional effect, but they administer them differently.

For example, during labor and delivery, an anesthesiologist performs an epidural by inserting a catheter just outside of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. By applying the anesthetics in this location, the doctor can numb everything below the level of the catheter site, including the pelvic area.

General anesthesia is different from local and regional anesthesia. In addition to numbing the body with sodium channel blockers and blocking pain with neurotransmitter receptor blockers, general anesthetics include sedatives. These chemicals shut down the brain, producing unconsciousness and amnesia.

Anesthesiologists have a few goals when administering anesthesia. First, they want to minimize pain and discomfort. You are less likely to move if you cannot feel pain during the procedure.

Secondly, they paralyze your muscles and organs. Anesthesiologists try to prevent both voluntary and involuntary movements. Even if a patient is unconscious, their muscles and organs can twitch during surgery if the anesthesiologist does not administer a paralytic.

Finally, doctors need the patient sedated during some procedures. Sedation helps doctors focus on their work during the following types of procedures:

  • Invasive procedures, like a colonoscopy
  • Procedures that take a long time, like organ transplants or open-heart surgery
  • Procedures requiring precision, like brain surgery

In all these situations, a conscious patient might disrupt a doctor’s work. Despite the risks of anesthesia, they are outweighed by the risks of keeping the patient awake during the procedure.

What Are Some Examples of Anesthesia Injuries?

Anesthesia injuries can vary in both cause and effect. Patients could suffer the following injuries as a result of an anesthesia error:

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can happen when a doctor or dentist uses too much local anesthetic. Sodium-channel blockers usually wear off with time. However, an overdose of these chemicals can produce neurotoxic effects, permanently damaging the nerves. Symptoms of nerve damage include:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Loss of fine motor skills

In some cases, the neurotoxic effects of the anesthesia wear off before causing permanent damage. In other cases, the nerves suffer permanent damage after an overdose of local anesthesia.

Anoxic or Hypoxic Injury

Anoxic means “without oxygen,” while hypoxic means “low oxygen.” These injuries happen when the brain does not receive oxygen. Brain cells die because they cannot perform cell metabolism without this essential gas.

Anoxic and hypoxic injuries can happen in a few ways. First, too much anesthesia can paralyze the chest muscles that enable respiration. When your chest does not expand, your lungs cannot fill with the air your brain needs to live.

Second, your anesthesiologist must monitor your vital signs during sedation. If you experience respiratory or cardiac distress, the surgical team should leap into action to stabilize you and prevent your oxygen levels from dropping too low. 

Anoxic and hypoxic brain injuries can happen when your doctors and nurses fail to monitor you or support your breathing when problems arise.

Third, if a pregnant mother experiences a drop in respiration, heart rate, or blood pressure while under anesthesia, she may fully recover while her baby suffers an anoxic or hypoxic injury. Until a baby is delivered, oxygen reaches the brain through the umbilical cord. If the mother’s oxygen levels drop, the baby can suffer an anoxic birth injury.

Anesthesia Awareness

Anesthesia awareness results from an underdose of a sedative. The patient awakes during the procedure but cannot move due to the paralytics administered. Seeing and experiencing an invasive procedure, like major surgery, can cause mental and emotional trauma.

How Do Anesthesia Injuries Relate to Medical Malpractice?

Healthcare providers must act with reasonable caution, skill, and competence when treating patients. Medical malpractice happens when the care provided to a patient falls below the level expected from an objective and reasonably careful professional in the same situation.

Therefore, not all adverse outcomes qualify as medical malpractice. You might not have a malpractice claim when you suffer harmful effects despite the medical staff’s reasonable attempts to prevent it.

On the other hand, doctors, dentists, hospitals, and other providers bear the liability for injuries that could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and skill. For example, suppose that you suffered an anesthesia injury because the anesthesiologist failed to read your file, which noted your opioid allergy.

Can I Recover Injury Compensation for an Anesthesia Injury?

You can pursue financial compensation for the losses that result from medical malpractice. Your compensation can include your economic losses, such as medical bills, wage losses, and diminished future earnings. It can also cover non-economic losses like pain and suffering.

Contact an Experienced San Antonio Personal Injury Attorney

An anesthesia injury can have serious consequences, including permanent disabilities, coma, or death. Contact George Salinas Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss your injuries and the medical malpractice claim you may have under Texas law. Our San Antonio personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning we only receive attorney’s fees if we win compensation for you. To discuss the compensation you can seek for the effects of an anesthesia Injury in San Antonio,contact our team George Salinas Injury Lawyers at (210) 225-0909 for a free consultation.