Anesthesiologists have a critical role when it comes to surgery. They are the doctors trained to administer and manage anesthesia during a surgical procedure, and they also have to monitor and treat any changes in a patient’s critical life functions. That means carefully watching one’s breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. Any rapid change in these functions has to be immediately diagnosed and treated. This is an individual who must also be available to immediately diagnose and treat medical issues that could crop up in the immediate aftermath of a surgery.
Their job begins prior to surgery, with a full evaluation of a patient’s medical condition, which will formulate the basis for the anesthetic plan, taking into account the individual’s physical condition. That includes one’s allergies – both known and potentially unknown.
In the recent Georgia case of Smith v. Introna, plaintiff is the widower and representative of decedent patient’s estate. The 63-year-old patient reportedly died just days after undergoing a knee replacement surgery that was, by all accounts, supposed to be routine. But, her husband alleges, the anesthesiologist assigned to the surgery failed to properly medicate his wife – not taking into account her allergy to certain medications – and then breached the standard of care by failing to monitor her or take the right action as soon as she stopped breathing.
According to Courtroom View Network, it’s alleged defendant anesthesiologist breached the applicable standard of reasonable medical care by ordering plaintiff to receive Dilaudid. This is a powerful painkiller frequently used in surgery and after. However, it’s a type of morphine/ opioid. This patient had an allergy to morphine and other opioid derivatives.
The surgery seemed to progress normally. However, the doctor reportedly didn’t order any kind of heightened monitoring of the patient after the procedure was over. Nurses later discovered her in her hospital room, unconscious with no heartbeat. The doctor did respond to her room when called, but her husband says the doctor didn’t succeed in intubating her and restarting her heart for a full 19 minutes after he entered that room. By that point, she was brain dead. She died four days later.
In response to the lawsuit, the doctor insists that he did properly assess his patient and her pain medication and that her post-operative monitoring was adequate in light of the circumstances. Further, he disputes that his medication or treatment was the reason patient stopped breathing in the first place.
The trial is expected to stretch eight days, and it’s probably going to involve a substantial amount of expert witness testimony.
According to the publication Emergency Physicians Monthly, true anaphylactic reactions to opioids are rare, with most patients usually experiencing some kind of pseudoallergy, like itching, hives, sweating or redness (at the site of an injection). However, the article noted that when there is a true allergy to an opiate, then an opioid in a different chemical class can be used – but only with close monitoring. Dilaudid (also known as hydromorphone) is listed in the same class as morphine. Alternatives might include diphenylheptanes (i.e., Darvon, Dolophine) or phenylpiperidines (i.e., Demerol, fentanyl).
Still, poor outcomes in surgeries aren’t necessarily proof of medical malpractice in Miami. One needs to show the physican breached the applicable standard of care based on the circumstances.
If you have been a victim of Miami medical malpractice, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Med Mal Trial Over Knee Surgery Patient’s Death to Begin Next Week, Nov. 3, 2016, By Arlin Crisco, Courtroom View Network
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Quinn v. CP Franchising – Coming and Going Rule in Workers’ Compensation Claims, Oct. 30, 2016, Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog