Many people are surprised to learn that one of the most dangerous parts of undergoing surgery isn’t surgical intervention itself, but the administration of anesthesia to patients, which, if done incorrectly, can result in hypoxia, or oxygen loss to the brain. Steady oxygen flow is crucial to the proper functioning of the brain and the rest of the body, so impeding the flow of oxygen, even for a relatively short span of time can have devastating consequences for patients, who could experience organ failure and other long-term outcomes. For help determining whether your own injuries were the result of a medical professional’s negligence during surgery, please reach out to our experienced Miami surgical error legal team today.
What is Hypoxia?
Hypoxia occurs when a person’s blood isn’t able to carry enough oxygen to the tissues in the body. Symptoms include rapid breathing, shortness of breath, a slower heart rate, and changes in skin color. Hypoxia has a number of causes, including everything from lung disease and heart problems to anemia and asthma. This condition, however, is often the result of a medical provider’s failure to properly administer anesthesia prior to, or to monitor a patient during, surgery. When denied oxygen for long enough, a person’s systems will begin to shut down, eventually resulting in death.
How Many Patients Experience Hypoxia?
Improvements in the safety of anesthesia administration and monitoring have made a vast difference in the ability of medical professionals to diagnose and correct hypoxia. Unfortunately, the risk of oxygen loss during surgery continues to be an issue despite these advancements. In fact, some studies have revealed that even in highly advanced surgical settings, as many as one in 15 patients experience hypoxia for at least two consecutive minutes during surgery and one in 64 patients experience it for five or more minutes. With an estimated 234 million surgical procedures being performed every year, this breaks down to at least three million patients experiencing prolonged hypoxia during surgery.
The Consequences of Hypoxia
A loss of oxygen during surgery has been linked to a number of potentially serious issues in patients. Reduced cerebral oxygen saturation levels, for instance, has been proven to correlate with higher postoperative complication rates, increased risks of surgical wound infections, reduced immune functioning, and increased incidences of postoperative vomiting and nausea. Most alarmingly, hypoxia has detrimental effects on almost all of the internal organs and can result in:
- Acute heart failure;
- Pulmonary hypertension; and
- Acute renal failure.
Hypoxia has also been associated with decreased cognitive function and long-term, permanent brain damage. How long it takes for a person to suffer from hypoxia-related organ failure depends on the level of oxygen deprivation. Minor hypoxia, for instance, can cause damage over time, but deep levels of hypoxia can cause near instant brain damage, often within a couple of minutes.
Dedicated Miami Surgical Error Lawyers
To speak with an experienced Miami surgical error lawyer about recovering compensation for your own physician’s negligence, please call Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum, LLP. Contact us at 305-371-2692 today to set up an initial consultation.