Prior to 1846, all surgeries were performed on patients who were alert and unmedicated. Thankfully, those days are over.
With anesthesia, patients no longer have to suffer the agony of surgery. Today, patients can receive local, general or regional anesthesia, depending on the type of surgery planned.
Types of anesthesia
Local| With local anesthesia, the medicine is injected into the nerves connecting to the surgical site. Prime patients for local anesthesia have relatively small surgical sites. Patients are awake and alert.
General| General anesthesia takes effect over the entire body. During general anesthesia, nerves do not transmit pain signals to the brain and the patient is unconscious.
Regional|There are several types of regional anesthesia including spinal, epidural and nerve blocks. Patients in need of regional anesthesia need a larger area covered but they are still conscious. A classic example of regional anesthesia is an epidural for vaginal delivery of a baby.
While anesthesia is very much a miracle drug, it doesn’t always work as planned.
C-section without anesthesia
In a case that recently made headlines, a California mother is suing the state’s Tri-City Medical Center for ignoring her screams of pain as, she claims, they performed an emergency C-section without anesthesia.
What the lawsuit describes is a nightmare scenario.
At 41 weeks pregnant, the mother was rushed into the operating room for an emergency C-section. In the lawsuit, she claims that the physicians were unable to locate the anesthesiologist despite several pages from hospital staff.
During surgery preparation, she recalls the Obstetrician saying, “We have to just do it.” According to her claim, the mother states: “That’s when I felt them cut me open. Nurses were holding me down … I could feel her cutting me and, with her hands, opening me. That’s when I passed out.”
According to the claim, the baby’s father, prohibited from entering the operating room, sat outside the doors, listening as staff paged the anesthesiologist overhead. The pages continued while his girlfriend screamed in agony.
Shortly after the birth, the lawsuit states that the anesthesiologist arrived and reassured the newly conscious mother that he would take the pain away now.
Tri-City Medical Center released a statement claiming that the mother’s allegation is outrageous and that she did, in fact, receive anesthesia. They refused, however, to elaborate on the type of anesthesia administered.
The mother’s attorney, who investigated the plaintiff’s medical record, claims that the only pain medication the mother received was an epidural several hours before the C-section. An epidural numbs a patient from the waist down, which would obviously have no benefit for someone having an abdominal C-section.
While anesthesia errors are uncommon, they do unfortunately happen. Anyone who feels that they have been the victim of an anesthesia error has the right to seek compensation for the physical and emotional pain and the impacts that the trauma may have in their future.