Brain Injuries During Surgery

Bottom view of the anesthetic mask and two doctors standing near - medical malpractice concept

Brain injuries during surgery occur when a patient’s brain is deprived of oxygen for too long. Brain injuries during surgery most commonly occur when the anesthesiologist administers the wrong dosage of anesthesia or fails to properly monitor the patient during surgery and the patient’s brain is deprived of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage, often described as an anoxic brain injury or encephalopathy, in as little as four minutes.

Medical malpractice leading to brain injury can occur anytime anesthesia is used during surgery, such as in a physician’s operating room or even at a dentist’s office or other outpatient setting.

If you or someone you love suffered a brain injury during surgery, you may be entitled to compensation. An Ohio medical malpractice lawyer can review your case to determine whether you are eligible for compensation.

Causes of Brain Injury During Surgery

Brain injuries during surgery occur when the patient’s brain is deprived of oxygen during a surgical procedure. Brain injuries that are caused during surgery are often the result of medical malpractice. Examples of medical malpractice that can cause brain injury during surgery include:

  • Failure to timely diagnose a blood clot, stroke, brain bleed, or heart attack
  • Surgical errors, especially during brain surgery
  • Untreated or undiagnosed infections
  • Excessive bleeding, which can lead to decreased oxygen in the blood
  • Failure to properly intubate the patient
  • Failure to treat a patient with breathing problems
  • Improper monitoring of a patient under anesthesia
  • Administering the wrong type or amount of anesthesia
  • Failure to treat a pulmonary embolism

Medical malpractice by the anesthesiologist or another member of the anesthesiology team or surgical team, for example a CRNA, can occur when someone on the team fails to continuously monitor the patient’s sedated condition. Patients under anesthesia are monitored electronically with tools like capnography and brain wave monitoring. Often the physician is not in the room and the procedure is covered by the CRNA. A CRNA has to call in the physician when things go wrong. Any delay in monitoring and notification can be critical and if the physician is not “readily available” as required by the standard of care, the results can be disastrous - including an anoxic brain injury from lack of oxygen.

Physical Consequences of a Brain Injury During Surgery

Brain damage can have a profound effect on a person’s life. How severely a patient’s life is changed by a brain injury during surgery depends on the amount of time the brain is deprived of oxygen and the nature and extent of the injury. The four primary ways in which a brain injury affects a person’s life are:

  • Thinking - Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and reasoning, and difficulty speaking or “finding the right word.”
  • Physical - Headaches, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to noise and light, balance problems, weakness, ataxia, or paralysis.
  • Emotional - Depression or behavioral issues like aggression, sadness, irritability, nervousness, or other inappropriate behaviors.
  • Sleeping - Sleeping more or less than usual, and difficulty falling asleep.

The effects of a brain injury are usually long-term, and many people never fully recover. People who have suffered brain injuries during surgery may require ongoing care, assistance with activities of daily living, on-going treatment and supervision, and may no longer be able to work or live as they did before the injury. Victims may require nursing home care, medical devices, and physical therapy. They also may experience secondary medical problems that arise as a result of the brain injury, like infections that will require additional medical treatment.

Financial Consequences of a Brain Injury During Surgery

The financial consequences of a brain injury during surgery can be enormous, as people who suffer from brain injuries may not be able to return to work, and often require around-the-clock care. Because treating a brain injury can be so expensive, it is critical that your lawyer correctly calculates and aggressively pursues the need for future compensation. If you and your family run out of money, there is no way to come back to court to ask for more money.

Sometimes people who suffer a brain injury during surgery show extreme changes in personality and may experience memory problems. Because the effect of a brain injury can be severe and permanent, the financial recovery for a brain injury case can often be substantial.

Proving a Case of Brain Injury During Surgery

When a brain injury occurs during surgery, the patient and his or her family may be eligible for compensation. Surgical brain injury cases are incredibly complicated, and should not be pursued without the assistance of a skilled and experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

To succeed, the patient must show that the defendant failed to meet a professional standard of care, such as failing to provide the correct type of dosage of anesthesia or failing to properly monitor the patient during surgery. The patient must show that this professional error caused the patient’s injury, and how the patient’s life was changed because of the mistake.

Most brain injuries from surgery are permanent, and victims of brain injury during surgery often need assistance from family members for help pursuing a claim.

How an Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

The anesthesiologist’s responsibilities are usually very clear. If the patient shows signs of oxygen deprivation during surgery, the anesthesiologist or CRNA must respond immediately. Otherwise, the patient can suffer permanent brain damage. Surgical records should clearly document the patient’s vital signs, the amount and kind of medication administered, and how the patient’s condition was monitored. If the anesthesiologist or another member of the surgical team did not properly monitor or failed to timely respond to a change in the patient’s condition, medical malpractice may have occurred.

If a patient suspects that an anesthesia error caused a brain injury, the medical provider’s data must be preserved. When you hire a medical malpractice lawyer, your attorney will send a letter to the medical providers asking them to preserve any information regarding the patient’s surgery that could potentially be used as evidence in a malpractice claim. If the hospital or medical provider fails to preserve the requested evidence, the provider can be subject to a claim for destruction of evidence and a presumption that the destroyed evidence would have helped the patient prove that the doctor was negligent.

If you or a loved one suffered a brain injury during surgery, an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer can help. You and your family may be entitled to compensation for:

  • The cost of past and future medical care and treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Temporary and permanent impairment

To schedule a free consultation with an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer at Robenalt Law, contact us today.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

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