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Medical Malpractice

Can an Anesthesiologist Commit Medical Malpractice?

January 31, 2024

When it comes to surgery or other invasive medical procedures, patients rarely worry about receiving anesthesia. In fact, most modern surgeries and similar procedures would be almost unbearable without it. Whether we are receiving general or local anesthesia, it allows us to receive treatment without pain. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but it glosses over the fact that receiving anesthesia carries inherent risks. If you have suffered harm as a result of receiving anesthesia, you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.  

The Role of the Anesthesiologist and CNRAs

Anesthesia is administered by an anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CNRA). They are both highly-trained and well-educated medical professionals who are responsible for the safety of the patient during the administration of anesthesia. This responsibility includes the following: 

  • They are responsible for ensuring that the correct drugs are administered and in the correct dosage. 
  • They must refuse to participate in any procedure that they believe is too dangerous under the circumstances or unnecessary.
  • They share responsibility with the surgeon to ensure that the patient is properly positioned during surgery. 
  • They are responsible for ensuring that the patient recovers safely from the anesthesia before they are transferred or discharged. 
  • They are responsible for overseeing patients in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). 

In short, anesthesiologists and CNRAs play a critical role in ensuring the patient’s safety and the success of the procedure. Failure to meet these responsibilities could, therefore, trigger a medical malpractice claim. 

Common Causes of Anesthesia Malpractice

Administering anesthesia is far more dangerous than many people realize due to the fact that it involves the use of very powerful drugs. The method of administration can also be dangerous. For example, an epidural involves the insertion of a needle into the patient’s spine. Things can go wrong very easily. Some of the most common causes of anesthesia malpractice include the following: 

  • Failure to educate the patient about the risks and side effects of anesthesia
  • Failure to review the patient’s medical records to identify potential complications
  • Failure to provide pre- and post-operative instructions concerning the administration and side effects of anesthesia (e.g. they need to fast prior to surgery, they should not drive home after the procedure)
  • Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
  • Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia
  • Failure to monitor vital signs
  • Failure to monitor side effects
  • Delaying the administration of anesthesia
  • Improper intubation
  • Use of defective or faulty equipment
  • Failure to identify or treat developing complications
  • Leaving a patient sedated for too long
  • Leaving an anesthetized patient unattended

As you can see, there are a variety of mistakes that anesthesiologists and CRNAs can make. If you have suffered harm as a result of a mistake connected with receiving anesthesia, a medical malpractice lawyer will be able to determine whether that mistake qualifies as medical malpractice. 

Common Consequences of Anesthesia Malpractice

Anesthesia malpractice can often be difficult to identify because the patient was likely unconscious when the malpractice occurred. If you are experiencing any of the following issues following your procedure, however, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately: 

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Delirium or confusion
  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Respiratory issues
  • Intubation injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Paralysis
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage

While some mistakes are unavoidable, others are caused by carelessness. If you have suffered harm as a result of an anesthesia error, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you hold the appropriate parties accountable. In some cases, this may mean pursuing a claim against the anesthesiologist or the CRNA. 

In other cases, the hospital may be the responsible party, such as when the error is caused by faulty equipment. Communication errors and mismanagement can also play a role. In fact, you may need to pursue a claim against multiple parties to get the compensation you deserve. 

Contact Ragain & Clark if You Have Been Harmed as a Result of Anesthesia Malpractice

If you have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. At Ragain & Clark, we have decades of experience in holding medical providers accountable for their negligence in both Montana and Wyoming. To discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.


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