As many people realize, undergoing surgery with anesthesia can be a truly dangerous event. However, modern medicine has come a long way to eradicate much of the previous danger. All too commonly a patient would be on the operating table and the first warning of impending disaster was the doctors and nurses realizing that the patient had turned blue, indicating a serious lack of oxygen. They then had only seconds to react before the patient’s heart would stop, and the chances of the patient’s surviving were slim.
Then the pulse oximeter came into use. A small sensor was invented that could easily be attached to the patient’s finger or toe that could measure how many red blood cells were actually carrying oxygen by sensing a certain wavelength of light and then a computer could translate that into a percentage. The pulse oximeter reading will start to drop minutes before the patient turns blue. Thereby, becoming the early-warning system allowing the anesthesiologist to react quicker and saving tens of thousands of lives in the last few decades.
As with most lifesaving inventions, they are only as good as the practitioners using them. Patients can still get into trouble with anesthesia when the heath care provider is not paying attention. Frank Rodriguez, partner in the JW Medical Malpractice group, advises that “Inappropriate things can be done, like the alarms on the pulse oximeter and other monitors being turned off or turned down, lifesaving medications not being immediately available next to the anesthesiologist for immediate use, lifesaving equipment not being available for immediate use, and the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist leaving the room while the surgery is going on and hence leaving the patient unmonitored.”
Similarly, once the patient gets out of surgery, they go to a recovery room, often called a post-anesthesia care unit, where they should be carefully monitored for signs that their circulation and respiration is being compromised. If this monitoring isn’t done carefully, the patient can once again stop breathing and lose their life.
If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of problems with anesthesia, please contact the medical malpractice team at Javerbaum Wurgaft. Our firm has been representing injury victims for more than 50 years, we are here to help.