Can You Sue if You Wake Up During Surgery?

The idea of waking up in the middle of surgery sounds like a nightmare. But for some patients, it is a terrifying reality. Although very rare (occurring in only one or two of every 1,000 medical procedures under general anesthesia), anesthesia awareness can occur in some patients and leave them with upsetting or disturbing memories of their surgery.

Types of Anesthesia

Anesthesia is a treatment used to keep you from feeling pain during medical procedures such as surgery. Different kinds of anesthesia are used depending on the type of procedure and the patient’s medical history.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia affects the whole body and is usually reserved for major and lengthy surgeries. It is commonly used for open-heart surgery, brain surgery, and organ transplants and is administered by IV or as an inhaled gas.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia is used to numb limbs such as arms or legs, but not the whole body. It is commonly administered for joint surgeries or to relieve pain during childbirth so mothers can stay awake and conscious.

Local Anesthesia

Patients who receive local anesthesia also remain awake during their procedures. Local anesthesia is used to numb a small area of the body, such as a single tooth in a dentistry procedure or an eye for cataract removal.

What is Anesthesia Awareness?

Anesthesia awareness occurs when a patient who is supposed to be sedated under general anesthesia becomes conscious during their procedure. Patients who experience anesthesia awareness may remember things that happened during the surgery and suffer psychological harm, especially if the memory was graphic.

Patients who wake up during surgery rarely feel pain and have a low chance of physical risk since they cannot move when they wake up — they may only have a vague recollection of their awareness.

Causes of Anesthesia Awareness

Anesthesia awareness can occur due to many factors, including:

  • Improper dosage of anesthesia by the anesthesiologist (usually too light)
  • Anesthesia equipment failure or misuse
  • Individual resistance or medical history of anesthesia resistance — often stems from anesthesia interaction with medication or a history of drug or alcohol abuse

Damages of Anesthesia Awareness

Patients who experience anesthesia awareness may or may not feel pain when they wake up. Most damages patients report occur after the operation and are psychological, such as:

  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Increased anxiety
  • Fear of future medical treatment
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Is Anesthesia Awareness Medical Malpractice?

If you experienced anesthesia awareness and suffered psychological damage, you aren’t alone, and you could have a case for medical malpractice. Although awareness is rare, CBS News reported that of patients who experienced anesthesia awareness episodes, half experienced severe distress. Additionally, over 40% had psychological harm, sometimes long-term such as post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

Your anesthesia awareness case could fall under the malpractice umbrella of anesthesia errors. If you can prove that your awareness was caused by negligence, you could recover compensation from the hospital or doctor responsible for your psychological damages, including pain and suffering.

Benefit of a Lawyer in Anesthesia Awareness Case

Proving negligence for any medical case can be challenging, which is why working with a lawyer who knows medical malpractice law vastly improves your chances of recovering compensation. Your lawyer will investigate to determine if medical malpractice occurred to prove the four legal elements of negligence, looking at evidence such as:

  • Your medical reports
  • The anesthesia equipment used at the hospital
  • The conduct of the doctor who administered the anesthesia

If the anesthesiologist or doctor made a mistake that caused you to receive an incorrect dose of anesthesia, or the equipment used was faulty or incorrect, they could be held liable.

You have one year from the date of your procedure to file a claim — if you didn’t know about the negligence until later, you have one year from the time you reasonably knew or should’ve known about the malpractice.

Contact an Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Help

If you experienced anesthesia awareness and believe it was caused by medical malpractice, talk to an attorney with Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA right away. It’s hard to know when you have a legal claim for malpractice, but you can’t be sure unless you speak to an attorney.

Contact us online or call 419-625-7770 for a free, no-risk consultation.