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Ellen was on an annual weekend getaway, downhill skiing with friends, when she tore her ACL. She heard a loud “pop” and knew immediately what had happened. Her husband rushed her home, 2 hours away, and took her to the emergency room. Although her injury was severe, she was sent home with pain pills and was told to stay off of her feet. Ellen met with her doctor later in the week and they agreed that undergoing surgery would be the best option for the condition of her injury and her desire to become active again. Ellen expressed her concern about going under general anesthesia and any anesthesia errors that might occur during the surgery. Her doctor assured her that such errors are rare and she would feel better once her surgery was over. During her surgery, Ellen suffered a small heart attack that added time to her recovery and hospital stay. Ellen and her husband were baffled that she had a heart attack while under anesthesia. She was healthy and had no pre-existing health conditions or history of heart problems. Her doctor explained that the heart attack most likely occurred when Ellen’s oxygenation became dangerously low and the acting anesthesiologist failed to work quickly enough to fix the problem before it occurred. After Ellen is released from the hospital, she and her husband are meeting with a friend, who practices law, to see if they are able to file a medical malpractice claim and receive compensation for her physical, mental, and emotional pain.
Anesthesia Errors: Know Your Risk
When many patients meet with their doctor or anesthesiologist to discuss their concerns about an upcoming surgery, anesthesia awareness might be a big topic of conversation. Anesthesia awareness occurs when the patient regains wakes up briefly (or in some cases for a longer period of time) and sees, feels, or hears parts of the surgery. In extreme cases, some patients are wide awake during the whole length of the surgery and can feel the procedure, but due to the paralyzing effects of the anesthesia, they are unable to move or communicate to the medical staff that they are awake. Fortunately, anesthesia awareness is rare, but there are other complications related to anesthesia that are more likely to occur during a surgery. Before your surgery, it’s vital to discuss your medical history and any pre-existing conditions that may put you at greater risk for an anesthesia error. While it’s a surgeon and anesthesiologist’s responsibility to keep you safe and alive during surgery, you are responsible for sharing any known health conditions or history before your surgery. Serious anesthesia complications include:
– Mental confusion and memory issues
– Lung Infections
– Heart Attack
You are more likely to have such complications if you are overweight, have a history of alcohol or drug use, are diabetic, have high blood pressure, or have other serious or pre-existing health conditions. Additionally, it is important to pay attention to your health during your recovery because in some post-op cases, patients have been known to react to a general anesthesia days or weeks after the surgery.
In Their Hands, We Trust
Going under the knife can be scary and it’s often difficult to put control into other people’s hands. Before you finalize a decision to have a surgical procedure, you have the right to ask for a second opinion. You also have the right to find a surgeon whom you trust and while it may be difficult, you should be able to do some research on their background (i.e. medical malpractice). Surgery is meant to improve the quality of your life. Would you rather go under the knife, internalizing all of the “what if’s” or would you rather have a frank and informative discussion with your doctor about any errors that may occur?