Brain Injuries During Surgery

Brain injuries can occur during surgery if the patient's brain is deprived of oxygen for a long enough period of time. When this occurs, it may be a result of administering incorrect dosage of anesthesia due to a misreading of the medical record entry error, miscalculation of the patient's size, weight and mass,  or selection of the wrong anesthetic agent.  Anesthesia malpractice can occur in the operating room or in a physician or dentist's office.  In a claim handled by Attorney Kolpan, the office nurse administered the wrong IV medication drug to the patient because she failed to look at the label on the bag to identify its contents and, without verifying the medication, injected it in the patient's intra venous line.  Also, the office did not properly store the medications and anesthetic agents to make it clear where each type could be found.

Unfortunately, by the time the nurse realized her mistake, the patient sustained a severe anoxic brain injury, one that results from a prolonged lack of oxygen. When the medical staff could not awaken the patient from her unconscious state, they called 911.  The patient awoke in the hospital with a severe brain injury resulting in permanent short term memory loss.  After the patient left the office surgical suite, the nurse, while cleaning the surgical room and emptying the trash, discovered the discarded medication bag, which was marked as anesthesia medication for surgery rather than the one she intended to give to accelerate labor and delivery.  The patient had received four times the normal dose of the anesthesia medication causing extensive oxygen deprivation and brain damage.

Anesthesia claims can arise from staff's failure to continuously monitor the sedated patient's condition.  Though an operative patient is electronically monitored. it is incumbent upon staff to monitor the readings and respond appropriately and quickly to any signs of trouble.  Oxygen deprivation may cause brain damage within four minutes of oxygen deprivation or diminution requiring immediate staff response to the emergency to avoid permanent brain damage.  Surgical and anesthesia staff responsibilities in an anesthesia emergency are usually clear and directive.  Once brain cells die from oxygen deprivation, the cells are permanently damage.  Responding quickly is crucial to avoiding brain cell death as well limiting the extent of brain cell death.  

Anesthesia records should clearly document vital signs, medication amounts and dosage frequency keeping staff apprised of the patient's condition.  There should be not only an electronically stored anesthesia medical record but a written one documenting the staff member's responses, adjustments and corrections to recordings visible on the monitor(s).  Once an anesthesia claim is suspected, medical record evidence, stored on the monitor's hard drive and the provider's electronic record hard, must be preserved.  Patient's counsel, upon being retained, must send a letter to the provider and institution to preserve the anesthesia records or be subject to spoliation motion.  (In Massachusetts, if a defendant receives a letter to preserve evidence and then destroys it, the Judge may tell the jurors if they find that the defendant destroyed evidence, the jury can infer the evidence was not helpful to the defendant.)  Again, time is of the essence.  

We invite you read more about brain injury litigation here on our website. For further information, you may contact our office online or call us at 617-426-2558.