No one wants to have dental work or dental surgery without anesthesia. Nonetheless, improperly administered dental anesthesia can have terrible consequences. If you or a family member has suffered serious harm as a result of an anesthesia error, you may have a viable claim of dental malpractice and be entitled to substantial damages. If you live in New York, now is the time to contact Lance Ehrenberg, Esq. for a free consultation.
Lance has been successfully settling and litigating dental malpractice lawsuits for decades and has a well-earned reputation for compassion as well as excellent legal representation. His extensive experience in this particular field makes him the wise choice when it comes to finding a dental malpractice attorney with an in-depth knowledge of both dentistry and the law.
When does a mistake become malpractice?
Dentists, like the rest of us, are allowed to make mistakes. There are, however, several ways in which a dentist’s conduct during the administration of anesthesia can be considered malpractice
An error falls into this category when it involves an act or omission that is below the normal standard of professional dental care. In other words, to win your anesthesia malpractice case, we must prove that your dentist behaved in a way no responsible dentist would have under the same circumstances.
To prove anesthesia malpractice, we must prove that your dentist owed you a duty of care, that their breach of that duty resulted in your injury, and that your injury resulted in financial damages like medical costs and/or loss of income.
Types of Dental Anesthesia
To understand how dental anesthesia errors happen, it’s necessary to be familiar with the types of anesthesia used in dental procedures. These include:
- Oral sedation, under which you will be conscious but won’t feel pain and will be relaxed
- Inhalation sedation in the form of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) under which you remain conscious and able to speak
- IV sedation, under which you will be semi-conscious (the level can be regulated during the procedure), possibly able to talk but usually unable to remember the procedure
- Local anesthesia, during which you will be awake but numb in the targeted site
- General anesthesia, during which you will be unconscious
Which type of anesthesia you receive will be based on your level of anxiety, the complexity of the dental procedure, your overall health, and any pre-existing medical conditions.
Dangerous Dental Anesthesia Malpractice Errors
Unfortunately, there are several ways dental anesthesia administration can go wrong.
- Failure to take or pay attention to the patient’s medical history by, for example, administering an anesthetic the patient is known to be allergic to or that will exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition.
- Failure to issue proper instructions to the patient on how to prepare for surgery (e.g. by not eating or drinking for a specified period).
- Improper Monitoring — Because all anesthesia, even when it’s local, involves some risk, monitoring the patient’s vital signs during administration is critical. In addition to performing the procedure, the dentist’s job is to monitor the patient’s vital signs, including turning the patient during a prolonged procedure to avoid positional nerve damage.
If the patient is under general anesthesia, the goal is to keep them asleep so they don’t feel any pain but not so deeply under that waking them will prove difficult. Failure to monitor a patient’s oxygen level or to notice complications developing could lead to patient incapacity or death.
- Improper Intubation — If you are under general anesthesia, you will have a tube down your throat to facilitate your breathing. Improper intubation can decrease or block airflow. It can also damage a tooth. The latter is the most common anesthesia malpractice claim, named in nearly 25 percent of anesthesia malpractice cases.
- Poor Communication — All of the healthcare individuals in the room, including nurses or assistants, have to communicate with one another according to a well-developed protocol. Miscommunications about the patient’s oxygen level or degree of consciousness (e.g. breakthrough pain or very low blood pressure) can be dangerous or even fatal. If there are slip-ups in this aspect of treatment, the dentist in charge can be held liable.
- Wrong Dosage — Whichever variety of anesthesia is used during the procedure, it has to be carefully and accurately measured. Proper dosages may vary according to age, weight, and tolerance, and must adjust according to idiosyncratic reactions. If too much anesthesia is administered, the patient might not only have trouble being wakened, but might suffer brain trauma, coma, or even death. On the other hand, too little anesthesia may leave the patient vulnerable to acute pain during the surgery.
Some dentists and dental surgeons have anesthesiologists working with them. In such cases, the anesthesiologist may be the party we hold responsible in a malpractice claim. In some cases, the surgical center may also be liable.
Complications Due to Improper Administration of Dental Anesthesia
A daunting number of serious potential complications stem from improper administration of dental anesthesia, including autonomic negative effects of local anesthesia (sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia) and:
- Lidocaine toxicity
- Ocular and other neurological damage
- Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis
- Laceration of gums, tongue, cheek; hemorrhage
- Blanching (decreased blood flow to tissues)
- Osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone)
- Jaw ankylosis (restricted mobility of the jaw)
- Pregnancy-related adverse effects
- Tooth breakage
- Awareness of pain while under anesthesia
- Malignant hyperthermia
- Respiratory difficulties
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Atrial fibrillation, low blood pressure, slow heart rate
- Embolism, Stroke, heart attack
- Brain injury due to oxygen deprivation
- Coma and/or death
As you can see, the range of complications suffered by patients due to improper administration of dental anesthesia is broad and devastating.
Contact Our Experienced Anesthesia Malpractice Attorney Today
If you are a victim of anesthesia malpractice, you deserve meaningful compensation for your losses and Lance Ehrenberg will fight vigorously to see that you get them. He will charge you no attorney’s fees until he recovers damages for your medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and all other costs related to your injury. Contact him now to discuss your case.