Anesthesia awareness medical malpractice lawsuits
Anesthesia awareness is the unthinkable phenomenon of being awake during surgery, yet unable to move, speak or communicate to doctors that pain or other sensations are being felt. It is often cause by an anesthesia mistake which could have been prevented either through proper use of medical care or use of a special monitor.
>>INFORMATION: Anesthesia awareness medical malpractice
Last week the Associated Press reported that a lawsuit was filed after a 73 year old Baptist minister and retired coal miner experienced anesthesia awareness during surgery on his abdomen. As a result of a medical mistake, he was not given general anesthesia until 16 minutes after the first cut. However, he was unable to move or cry out in pain as a result of paralyzing drugs which were given before the surgery to prevent involuntary muscle movement during the proceedure.
Following surgery, the patient reported feeling excruciating pain which left him unable to sleep, afraid of being alone, experiencing nightmares and thinking that people were trying to bury him alive. Approximately two weeks after the surgery he committed suicide by shooting himself.
Many people who experience anesthesia awareness suffer severe post traumatic stress after the surgery, and are often tormented by doubts that the memories are not real. Physicians do not always believe the recollections, and in some cases patients do not even tell their doctors or family what they experienced.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the president of the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign indicated that after experiencing anesthesia awareness, many people pursue lawsuits because they want to be acknowledged, and do not want to be told it did not happen or that it was a dream. Carol Weiher founded the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign after her anesthesia failed during an eye operation in 1998. She received a settlement after filing an anesthesia malpractice lawsuit.
PREVENTING ANESTHESIA AWARENESS
Even though individuals may not be able to directly signal their pain and distress, careful observation and monitoring by the physician should be able to pick up on signs of awareness, such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilation of the pupils, sweating and formation of tears. Unfortunately, many anesthesiologists fail to give their full time and attention
Many believe that the risk of anesthesia awareness could be further reduced or even eliminated by careful monitoring and use of a device known as a bispectral index monitor (BIS monitor). The monitor works by placing a plastic sensor on the patients forehead which sends brain waves to a unit which converts them to a number between zero and 100. During general anesthesia, a patient should be kept in the range of 40 to 60.
These monitors were approved by the FDA in 1996, yet they are only used on about 12% of patients who receive general anesthesia and they are not even present in approximately 60% of all operating rooms. Many anesthesiologists do not believe the monitors are necessary since vigilance in monitoring the patient should be sufficient. Victims of anesthesia awareness often disagree.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYERS
The medical malpractice lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk investigate potential claims for medical mistakes nationwide. If you, a friend or family member believe you may be the victim of an anesthesia mistake or medical error, request a free malpractice consultation.