Bad Medicine: When Anesthesiologists Get it Wrong

The risk of serious injury or death increases anytime a surgery requires the administration of general anesthesia. General anesthesia is used to put the patient into a medically induced coma. This is achieved using a combination of inhaled gasses and intravenous drugs. The combination of these drugs ensures the patient’s brain will not respond to pain until after the coma is lifted.

In the 1980’s, roughly four out of every million patients died while under general anesthesia. The risk of death or serious injury increases with a patient’s age. It’s estimated that roughly 1 out of 10 patients over age 65 will die while under general anesthesia.

Errors made by anesthesiologists can lead to strokes, heart attacks, collapsed lungs, and brain injuries. Between 1999 and 2005, there were 2,200 deaths caused by anesthesia. These statistics are concerning and underscore the need for enhanced monitoring and application of universal safety precautions during surgical procedures.

“The dangers of general anesthesia are well known and universal protocols require the presence of an anesthesiologist throughout surgery. This doesn’t always happen. Either because they’re short staffed or have stacked surgical procedures, many anesthesiologists find themselves floating between operating rooms. This increases the risk that a patient will suffer permanent brain damage, or become a fatality,” remarked Chicago medical malpractice attorney John Power.

Anesthesiologists can be held liable for using defective equipment, or applying an under/overdose of anesthetic. They are also responsible for preparing patients for surgery and monitoring them before, during, and after the surgery. Failure to fulfill their responsibilities constitutes medical malpractice in Illinois.

Common mistakes made by anesthesiologists include failure to properly monitor patients and failure to intubate. This was what happened to Michelle Ballog at Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. In 2011, Mrs. Ballog underwent liver surgery during which her anesthesiologist failed to monitor her health. At the time, the hospital did not require the anesthesiologist be present for the duration of the operation. As a result, Mrs. Ballog lapsed into a coma and passed away nine days later.

“Anesthesia errors can lead to serious brain injury or death. When an anesthesiologist isn’t fully focused on a patient’s health and incorrect dosages are administered, the result is often catastrophic,” lamented Chicago medical malpractice attorney John Power.