Allergic Reactions: The Secret Danger of Anesthesia
While most people do not have an allergic reaction to anesthesia, it can cause a number of problems for those who do.
The medical professional treating you should review your complete medical history and past allergic reactions before ordering or administering any anesthesia, as failing to do so may lead to several health problems. Here are some examples.
Getting Prepped for Surgery
The medical professional in charge of administering anesthesia, as well as monitoring your vital signs throughout the duration of surgery, is called an anesthesiologist. In some hospitals, it is standard procedure for patients to meet their anesthesiologists before the day of the surgery to go over any possible health issues and concerns they may have.
Anesthesia can contain certain chemicals that patients are allergic too, which can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock. In such cases, the anesthesiologist should find either another anesthetic or an alternative means of putting you under before the surgery. If they fail to do this – or fail to speak with you the day of the surgery to address any additional medical concerns you may have – they may be liable for anesthesia errors.
It is important to note that not all types of anesthesia are the same. “General anesthesia,” which leaves the patient unconscious for a certain period of time, is most likely to cause an allergic reaction. Other types of anesthesia are less likely to cause a reaction. These include:
- Local anesthesia: A numbing medicine injected into the area doctors will be working on.
- Conscious sedation: A type of anesthesia that makes the patient sleepy or less aware without actually losing full consciousness.
- Epidural anesthesia: A numbing medicine injected into the area around your spinal cord.
Different Types of Anesthesia Reactions
Some allergic reactions are mild; others are not. The milder allergic reactions to anesthesia include:
- Muscle twitches
- Swelling in the face area
- Mild shortness of breath
- Slow or abnormal heart rate
- Mild reduction in blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
However, even a “mild” reaction such as vomiting can be deadly when you’re laid out on the table. A patient who vomits while under general anesthesia may aspirate (breathe) in the vomit, and suffocate. Being asleep, the patient cannot clear his own throat, and if the operating room team isn’t paying attention, this “mild” reaction could be fatal.
Less common is anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction to anesthesia. Symptoms of this more severe type of allergic reaction include:
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac arrest
- Shock/severely low blood pressure
- Closing of airways, which causes severe shortness of breath (SOB)
- Unusually slow or fast heart rate, or abnormal heartbeat
How Do Doctors Prevent Allergic Reactions to Anesthesia?
While you’re awake, you can be your own best advocate; providing your doctors and nurses and anyone who treats you with as much information as possible concerning any past medication issues you’ve had. These include:
- Any allergic reactions or side-effects you had in the past with anesthesia, as well as with antibiotics and other types of medicine.
- Any food, substances, or medications you think you might be allergic to.
- Any family history of allergies to anesthesia and other types of medication.
That covers what you know and can control. But what happens when you’re out on the table, and the anesthesiologist uses something new? Or forgets what you told him? In the event that you suffer a severe reaction to the anesthesia, you may be owed compensation.
If a medical professional ignored or disregarded your medical records, this would be a case of medical malpractice and the doctor, anesthesiologist, or hospital would be liable for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any future treatment you would need to fix the damage caused by the allergic reaction.
File a Claim After an Allergic Reaction to Anesthesia
Have you been the victim of an allergic reaction to anesthesia? The medical professionals in charge of performing surgery are responsible for making sure you can be safely given an anesthetic. When they fail to do so, it would be a case of medical malpractice.
To get treatment, you may have to go through your own health insurance, as well as the hospital’s malpractice insurer — or even the anesthesiologist’s professional insurance! These cases are complicated, and no matter who is liable, the insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible – even though you were the victim. Our team of Denver medical malpractice attorneys at Leventhal Puga Braley P.C. will go to work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (303) 759-9945 or toll-free (877) 433-3906 for a free consultation.