Most patients know to investigate their surgeon and their hospital if they are going to have surgery. However, almost no one considers who will be providing anesthesia care during their operation. The reality, the anesthesia provider in many operations is the most important part of your health care team. They don’t merely provide anesthetic agents – they are the individuals who are responsible for fluid management, circulation, breathing, and most other necessities of life before, during, and after an operative procedure.
Anesthesia mistakes can result in serious injury and even death. In addition to errors relating to medication dosage and interactions, common negligence issues include mismanagement of fluid, inadequate monitoring of blood pressure, inadequate airway management, and improper response to anesthesia emergencies.
Another trend that has effected this area is the use of nurses to fulfill traditional physician duties. For example, some hospitals will use nurse anesthetists to provide primary anesthesia care in an operating room, and one anesthesiologist “overseeing” many nurse anesthetists in many different operating rooms at once. In other cases, some physicians who operate in their offices under general anesthesia use nurse anesthetists without an anesthesiologist on site at all!
An example of an anesthesia case handled by the lawyers at Kelley/Uustal is the case of a gentleman who was undergoing a hip-replacement operation. The man worked at the hospital and knew the hospital’s system of providing nurse anesthetists instead of doctors, so he consented to the procedure only if a doctor anesthesiologist would be administering the anesthesia care. An anesthesiologist was present to put the patient to sleep and then left once the man was unconscious. He was replaced by a nurse who put the patient into fluid overload byadministering 11 liters of fluid (there are only 5 liters of blood in most peoples system to begin with!). The man went into cardio-pulmonary arrest and was deprived of oxygen. He was left with a significant brain-injury due to the negligence of his health care team. A multi-million dollar confidential settlement was recovered on his behalf.