Anesthesia Awareness: How Is It Medical Malpractice?


During surgical procedures, an anesthesiologist will place a patient into a pain-free unconscious state through the use of general anesthetic.  While typically considered safe, anesthesia errors still occur and the consequences can be devastating.

Anesthesiologists have the responsibility of regulating the patient’s consciousness during the surgical procedure.  If the dose of anesthesia administered to the patient is insufficient, then the patient may wake up during the procedure.  When this occurs it is called anesthesia awareness and is very traumatic for the patient.

For patients who experience anesthesia awareness, it is extremely horrifying.  They are aware of what is happening as the surgery continues but they are not able to move or speak.  Some patients have experienced extreme pain.  In one study, it was found that almost half of patients who have experienced anesthesia awareness will hear the conversations of medical personnel during the procedure.  Half will also experience sensations of being unable to breathe and just over a quarter will feel pain during the surgery.

Patients who experience anesthesia awareness can be traumatized both physically and emotionally.  Feelings of paralysis and helplessness have been reported by patients.  As a result of this trauma, patients can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, as well as problems sleeping.

Anesthesia awareness can result from a patient having an unexpected reaction to a type or dose of general anesthetic.  Some patients may have been given a lighter dose due to the instability or the severity of their condition.  Additionally, signs that a patient has not been given adequate anesthesia can be hidden by other medications.  However, in other cases, a medical professional’s error or equipment failure may have also resulted in anesthesia awareness.  It is in these cases that medical professionals could be liable for the injured patients losses and pain and suffering.

There are an estimated 21,000 to 42,000 people in the United States every year who experience anesthesia awareness.  In the past and even now, hospitals and doctors have been reluctant to address the issue.  However, it is getting harder to ignore.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of an anesthesia error that has led to anesthesia awareness, then you may be able to recover damages for your injuries.  Contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.

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