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Anaesthesia-Related Medical Negligence

Medical negligence range from injuries sustained during hip replacements to confidentiality breaches, to name but a few. Other types of medical negligence could also be due to anaesthesia, which will be focussing on in this article.

Complications during surgery are not necessary the result of negligence and not all anaesthesia-related deaths can be classified as one or more types of medical negligence. In most instances, the only unpleasant side effects experienced are that of nausea, disorientation and perhaps vomiting or a sore throat after the patient has regained consciousness. In a few instances, however, injuries are suffered ranging from brain damage to heart attacks and paralysis. In very few cases patients die as the result of anaesthesia.

What is important to remember is that the health condition of the patient may have been the main contributing factor to the injury. In addition, factors such as the age of the patient, medical history, whether the patient was a smoker or dependent upon drugs, and the likes must also be taken into consideration.

If the patient fails to inform the anaesthesiologist of their prior health history, dependence upon drugs or usage of specific medication, etc., and suffers injury related to the anaesthesia, then it will be difficult to prove malpractice or negligence on the part of the medical professional. That being said, anaesthesia is a high-risk procedure and even a seemingly small mistake can lead to serious injury.

Negligence on the part of the medical professional can take the form of incorrect monitoring of the administration of the anaesthesia, intubation problems, or incorrect monitoring of the patient. If the pulse oximeter alarm is accidently switched off, it can mean that the oxygen level in the patient’s blood is not correctly monitored and adjusted. If it goes unnoticed, the patient can suffer brain injury, stroke, heart attack and even death.

Other complications can range from tooth damage as the result of incorrect intubation, to allergic reaction, pneumonia and respiratory problems, blood clotting, stroke, regaining of consciousness during the surgery, and nerve injuries.

If the surgery procedure is particularly long, then the anaesthesiologist has the added responsibility to ensure that the patient is moved at set intervals in order to avoid having too much pressure on a particular part of the body. Failure to do so can result in optic nerve injury, which can leave the patient blind. It is thus essential that the medical professional follows procedure correctly, including informing the patient when to stop eating and drinking before the operation, monitoring the patient, administering the anaesthetics, and following up after the surgery.

Proving negligence on the part of the anaesthesiologist may be difficult. The medical law attorney will call on expert medical witnesses to review the patient’s pre-operation health, risk factors, whether the correct procedures have been followed, and what the complication rate of the particular anaesthesia type is when used for a specific type of surgery. The pre- and post-operation notes of the anaesthesiologist will be important, in addition to the hospital and medical records of the patient.

We recommend getting legal guidance regarding the types of medical negligence and the requirements that must be met for the professional’s actions to constitute negligence if you or your loved one has suffered injury as the result of anaesthesia or another medical procedure.


Note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as an attempt to provide legal advice. We strongly recommend that you contact us at Adele van der Walt Incorporated for professional legal advice.

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