The surgeon isn't the only doctor in the room
Your doctors determined that you need a surgical procedure to fix an injury or cure an illness. You understand that certain risks come with the procedure and that it may not accomplish the goal. You also realize that the surgeon could make a mistake that causes you harm, so you may ask additional questions regarding the experience of the one conducting the procedure.
The answers given may lead you to believe that you will come out of the surgery better off than when you went in for the operation. However, you may have missed the fact that another doctor typically goes into the surgery suite, and that doctor also can hold your life in his or her hands -- the anesthesiologist.
The ordinary risks of anesthesia
The potential risks of anesthesia vary by such things as medical conditions you suffer from, your age and the type of procedure you need. However, certain factors increase your risks of something going wrong during the operation. Examples of things that could go wrong are:
- You could suffer problems breathing during and after the surgery.
- You could suffer from learning and long-term memory issues called postoperative cognitive dysfunction.
- You could suffer from muscle contractions and a quick fever, called malignant hyperthermia.
You may experience less severe after-effects, including vomiting, nausea, confusion or chills, but they typically only last a few days at most. The breathing tube may also give you a sore throat, which is also generally temporary.
The extraordinary risks of anesthesia
Some conditions and circumstances can increase your risk of suffering serious reactions from anesthesia, including the following:
- You suffer from obstructive sleep apnea
- You have allergies to certain types of anesthesia
- You have diabetes
- You suffer from seizures or another neurological disorder
- You have heart disease
- You suffer from kidney problems
- You have had a stroke
- You have high blood pressure
- You are obese
- You suffer from a lung condition
If you drink alcohol or smoke, your risk may also increase. When you meet with your anesthesiologist, he or she should take a complete history regarding your current medical condition. Even though this information may be in your records, verification or clarification may help prevent any mistakes.
The job of the anesthesiologist
Before and during your surgery, your anesthesiologist should do the following:
- He or she should choose medications to increase your safety
- He or she should provide you with tips regarding what may lower the risks from anesthesia during your surgery
- He or she should continuously monitor your condition and already have a plan of action in place in case something goes wrong
There is no room for error when it comes to anesthesia. One mistake in dosage, medication type or monitoring could result in serious or deadly harm.
The potential course of action if a mistake causes you harm
If the anesthesiologist makes a mistake, you may wind up with lifelong consequences. If that happens, you may require extensive medical or other care for an extended period or even for the rest of your life. You could lose your ability to work, and, thus, the ability to support you and your family. Between the medical costs and lost income, your financial situation could become dire. You may consider filing a medical malpractice claim pursuing compensation for those losses.