When you go to a hospital for surgery, you expect the highest standard of care and for doctors to follow standard procedure. One of the elements of standard procedure for surgery includes full anesthesia to put you to sleep before the surgery. However, in very rare cases, you do not completely fall asleep during your surgery, recall your surroundings, and/or experience pressure or pain – a phenomenon known as anesthesia awareness.
Definition of Anesthesia Awareness
When you visit a hospital for a surgery, you receive medications to help you fall asleep and reduce pain during the surgery. Some anesthesia also induces paralysis so that the patient does not move during the operation. However, this medication can fail to induce unconsciousness in very rare circumstances. You wake up, become aware of certain events during the surgery, and may even feel pain.
Different people have different levels of awareness. Some may recall brief memories, others may remember specific moments. Others feel a sense of pressure, while others can feel pain. In very rare cases, some patients can experience paralysis but remain awake and feel pain during the surgery. This instance can lead to lasting damage.
Why Does Anesthesia Awareness Occur?
Researchers do not know the exact cause of anesthesia awareness. Causes of anesthesia awareness can range from preexisting conditions to doctor error and medical equipment malfunction. Surgeries that do not use general anesthesia also have higher instances of anesthesia awareness. However, the condition is most common in patients with multiple medical conditions or who are receiving a certain surgery.
Surgeries with high anesthesia awareness rates include emergency C-sections, surgery for traumatic injuries, and certain heart surgeries. In these cases, doctors cannot safely administer the appropriate amount of anesthesia and patients do not completely fall asleep. In addition, anesthesia awareness can occur if the doctors do not administer anesthesia properly. Sometimes, the equipment meant to monitor anesthesia levels fails.
Possible Damages From Anesthesia Awareness
In the most severe cases of anesthesia awareness, patients can leave with lasting psychological damage due to their experiences. You may develop post-traumatic stress disorder due to your experience. You can also develop other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and an unavoidable preoccupation with death. Repetitive nightmares and irritability are also common damages from anesthesia awareness.
Can You File a Lawsuit for Anesthesia Awareness?
In certain circumstances, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit in California civil court for anesthesia awareness. To do so, your attorney must prove the following factors:
- He or she must prove that you and the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other people involved in your case had a doctor-patient relationship. Visiting a hospital for surgery can establish this factor.
- Your attorney must prove that your surgeon breached a standard of care, and that this breach led to the anesthesia awareness. In these cases, this breach can include improperly setting up equipment, ignoring signs of distress during surgery, or not administering anesthesia properly.
- Your attorney must prove that a similarly trained and educated doctor would not have made the same mistake and you would have not suffered damages due to anesthesia awareness.
- Your attorney must prove that you suffered damages because of the anesthesia awareness. In these cases, the damages are likely non-economic such as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of quality of life. In California, you can claim up to $250,000 in non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Proving a medical malpractice case for anesthesia awareness can be difficult due to the irregular nature of the injury. Many different factors can contribute to this phenomenon, and not all of them involve medical malpractice. To determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit for your anesthesia awareness case, contact a medical malpractice attorney in Bakersfield.