Furr & Henshaw
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Surgical errors may occur without anesthesiologist in attendance

What would you think if you found out that your doctor left the operating room while you were in surgery? You’d probably be alarmed. Realistically, in many situations, there is more than one doctor in the operating room. In most procedures, one of these doctors is an anesthesiologist.

Most people think of the anesthesiologist as the one who makes medical procedures possible without you feeling discomfort and pain. So his or her participation is critical to the success of the procedure. But since the anesthesia is administered before the surgery begins, does the anesthesiologist have to stay in the operating room?

In many instances, anesthesia is now administered and monitored by a “care team” that could include the anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist and other assistants. The opinions on this method are divided: some feel that it is a safer approach to have multiple professionals on the scene should something go wrong; others feel that it allows the anesthesiologist to leave the room and attend to other patients while leaving others without the same level of training on hand to solve any problems.

A recent case in the news is an example of how the team approach can go awry. A woman who was about 180 pounds overweight was going through an endoscopy as a prerequisite to lap band surgery to lose weight before her wedding. While endoscopy isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can be uncomfortable as a tube is slid down the throat to take pictures of the areas to be involved in the surgery. Anesthesia can ease the discomfort during the procedure.

In this case, the anesthesiologist administered the drugs she deemed appropriate for the woman’s size and medical history and left to administer anesthesia to other patients. The woman’s heart stopped mere minutes after the anesthesia was started but the anesthesiologist had already left the room. It took her about three minutes to return to the room after a code blue alarm but it only takes five minutes for brain damage to occur. The patient was hooked up to a ventilator but never woke up.

This is the worst case scenario for surgical errors, but it can happen. If any doctor leaves an operating room, it leaves room for error. If you have been injured by this kind of negligence, contact an attorney in South Carolina who handles medical malpractice cases to determine your rights.

Source: Houston Press, “Going Under: What Can Happen If Your Anesthesiologist Leaves The Room During An Operation,” Dianna Wray, Oct. 13, 2015

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