A patient lies on table surrounded by healthcare professionals operating on him.

This isn’t the Wild West. No, gone are the days where you reach for a shot of whiskey and clench a twig between your teeth. It’s nearly the year 2020 and we’ve got a MUCH  better way to deal with pain.

We’re talking about Anesthesia, the amazing gift that modern medicine has sealed with a bow and gifted us. Something almost all of us can be thankful for…unless you’re one of the few who’ve experienced it’s terrors, like anesthesia paralysis and awareness for example. 

In this article we’re going to talk about the scary side of Anesthesia…the side we hope you never have to experience.  But first, let’s dig deeper into what Anesthesia is and how it helps patients.

A woman is comforted by her husband while in surgery.

The Purpose of Anesthesia

Most healthcare professionals are amazing. They work long hours and deal with stressful situations, all while doing their best to keep patients comfortable and healthy. One of the tools they routinely use is anesthesia. A combination of medications administered through a vein or breathed in, anesthesia is what keeps patients relaxed or even asleep during surgery. 

In case you weren’t aware, there’s actually three forms of anesthesia:

  • General anesthesia – Used for major surgeries, this is where you’re completely unconscious and unable to move your body; deep asleep and unaware of what’s happening. 
  • Regional anesthesia – Think a C-section, where a large part of the body is numb, but you’re still awake. 
  • Local anesthesia – Nearly the same as regional anesthesia, except the area under anesthesia is smaller. Local anesthesia is what dentists and eye surgeons routinely use.

When Anesthesia Goes Wrong

Anesthesiologists are responsible for giving patients the correct dose and combination of medications. They’re also there to monitor vital signs. Their job is incredibly important and surgeons rely heavily on their expertise. 

Now, for the most part they do an incredible job, but sometimes things go wrong. Maybe the body just reacts in an unpredictable way and it’s no one’s fault. Other times complications occur because someone didn’t do their job. Maybe they weren’t paying close attention or forgot to do something important.

Something important like:

  • Giving too high or too low of a dose.
  • Not tracking the patient throughout the procedure.
  • Failure to inform the patient how to prepare for surgery. 
  • Turning off the pulse oximeter alarm. (This is the device that is usually clamped on your fingertip. It sounds an alert if your heart isn’t pumping enough oxygen to your vital organs.)
  • Failure to recognize complications as they develop. Anesthesiologists should be paying close attention to your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, etc.

A man sits in a chair visibly upset with his hand covering his eyes.

Anesthesia Side Effects:

There are a wide variety of side effects. Based on the severity of the medical error and how the body responds, mistakes range from trivial to catastrophic. In some cases they’re even fatal, which is all the more reason anesthesiologists need to exercise extreme caution. Here’s a list of varying side effects:

  • Postoperative pain
  • Nausea
  • Serious allergic reaction
  • Sore throat
  • Brain damage from a lack of oxygen
  • Tooth damage
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hypotension
  • Breathing problems
  • Nerve injury
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Have you ever heard of anesthesia awareness?  (Also called anesthesia paralysis.) This is another scary complication where a patient may wake up in the middle of surgery. Unable to speak or move, they have no way to tell the staff what’s happening. Sometimes patients not only hear what’s going on, but feel it. Talk about a nightmare. Patients that have lived through this describe it as horrifying. Take this anesthesia paralysis story from CNN for example:

When Carol Weiher was having her right eye surgically removed in 1998, she woke up hearing disco music. The next thing she heard was ‘Cut deeper, pull harder.’

She desperately wanted to scream or even move a finger to signal to doctors that she was awake, but the muscle relaxant she’d received prevented her from controlling her movements.

‘I was doing a combination of praying and pleading and cursing and screaming, and trying anything I could do but I knew that there was nothing that was working,’ said Weiher, of Reston, Virginia.

Even after surgery, anesthesia awareness can provoke severe emotional distress, and patients may even develop PTSD. 

What to do if You’re a Victim of Malpractice

Anesthesiologists are experts in their field, we all know that. But they make mistakes like everyone else. If you’re the victim of medical malpractice, whether it was anesthesia paralysis, stroke, or heart attack or another problem, your anesthesiologist should be held accountable.

Medical errors are unfortunate no matter the severity. They can effect your body in a long term ways, change your emotional state, and seriously alter the trust you once had in medical professionals.

If you or a loved one are the victim of malpractice, it’s important to take swift action. In most malpractice suits there’s a statute of limitations; your time frame  to pursue legal action.

If you have any questions or you’d like to pursue legal action, please contact us. You don’t have to just accept what happened to you. You have the right to defend yourself or your loved one, and claim justice.