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New York City Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Anesthesia Errors and Anesthesia Aspiration

By Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP. posted in Anesthesia Error on Monday, June 24, 2019.

Anesthesia is used for most medical procedures as a method of pain management. There are different types of anesthesia which are used for different medical procedures. This is dependent on the type of surgery and where on the body the surgery is taking place. The type of anesthesia used for major surgeries is called general anesthesia.

Risks of General Anesthesia

Due to the nature of major surgery and the medications involved, there are several risks associated with the use of general anesthesia which your doctor should discuss with you. Some major risks associated with general anesthesia include: 

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Pneumonia

What is Anesthesia Aspiration?

Anesthesia aspiration, also known as acute intraoperative aspiration, is a potentially fatal complication that occurs in response to the use of general anesthetics during major surgeries. Patients undergoing thoracic surgery are at the most risk for anesthesia aspiration, and the complication itself holds a high risk of morbidity due to the development of pneumonia.

Anesthesia aspiration occurs when you inhale your own oro-pharyngeal or gastric contents whilst unconscious due to general anesthesia. Aspiration of these contents can cause hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) because of the physical obstruction in your airway, as well as pneumonia should these contents reach your lungs.

Due to its severity, all anesthetists are aware of the condition and the importance of minimizing aspiration by extensively monitoring you during surgery and enforcing advanced anesthetic practices.

Anesthesia Aspiration Caused Richard Pellock’s Death

In January 2015, a man named Richard Pellock was admitted to UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital in Dubuque, Iowa, to undergo a surgical procedure for his non-metastatic bladder cancer. The surgery was a success; however, Richard developed an ileus and abdominal distension after his operation

Five days after his initial surgery, Mr. Pellock’s surgeon recommended that he undergo an exploratory laparotomy to rule out a possible bowel leak or injury due to the extreme pain that he was experiencing. It was during this surgery that Richard sustained an aspiration. This aspiration caused both aspiration pneumonia and hypoxic respiratory failure, resulting in his death that same day.

Richard’s family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in November 2015 and alleged negligence because he was intubated and underwent surgery despite being a high-risk patient for anesthesia aspiration by exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Bloated and distended abdomen
  • Distended bowel loops with air fluid levels
  • Stool coming out the Jackson-Pratt drain
  • A full stomach

Richard’s doctors were aware of these symptoms but did not take the necessary precautions to avoid aspiration when administering the anesthesia - such as inserting a feeding tube. Additionally, Richard’s anesthesiologist did not perform a rapid sequence administration of general anesthesia with airway pressure application, and he failed to suction the airway after the aspiration occurred.

In September 2017, Richard Pellock’s family won the lawsuit they had filed and received $10,000,000 in damages. The amount was deemed necessary based on the damages for Richard’s pre-death physical, his mental pain and suffering, and his premature burial expenses. This amount also accounted for the damages to Richard’s wife and son who indicated that they incurred damages for past, present, and future loss of spousal/parental consortium, and the lost past, present, and future consortium, aid, affection, support, and services of Richard.

Legal Matters

As can be seen with the complexity of Richard Pellock’s case, it is essential that you contact a medical malpractice lawyer if you are going to embark on an anesthesia error medical malpractice lawsuit.

Only an NYC medical malpractice attorney, who is familiar with the laws specific to the state, can review your documentation and records and determine whether you have a viable case or not. This same attorney can then initiate the process to start a medical malpractice lawsuit, and guide you through it if your case is viable.

Contact

If you believe that you or a family member may have experienced an anesthesia error, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Rosenburg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff LLP in NYC today and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys.

When you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Call 1-866-516-5887 for a free, confidential consultation.

 

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