Anesthesia complications are a chief surgical risk factor. While blocking nerve signals is essential to spare patients from pain, it’s always possible to interrupt important functions in the process. From heart problems to respiratory distress, anesthesia injuries are unfortunately common.

One of the lesser-known causes of anesthesia-related injuries is wrongful body positioning during surgery. While unconscious, patients are entirely dependent on the medical staff. Failure to consider and account for all critical positioning factors can cause a range of injuries, from pressure ulcers to brain damage.

The Standard of Care for Surgical Positioning

Wrongful positioning injuries are highly preventable when physicians adhere to the leading medical standard of care. The correct patient positioning should:

  • Protect patient comfort.
  • Secure the view and accessibility of each surgical team member.
  • Minimize bleeding and pressure.
  • Facilitate blood supply throughout the body.
  • Ensure the patient can breathe properly.

Creating a plan that considers all these factors is critical for injury prevention. For example, securing view and accessibility during surgery may require the patient’s arm to be positioned overhead. But if improperly placed, the arm can easily lose blood flow and go numb. Surgeries often last several hours during which patients are unable to adjust themselves. If the pressure and numbness are severe enough, the patient may suffer permanent nerve damage causing loss of movement and other consequences. 

The Risk of Perioperative Blindness

While rare, vision loss is one of the most devastating consequences of nerve damage. Patients are generally shocked to learn that perioperative blindness can result from surgeries that have nothing to do with the eyes. This type of injury occurs due to complicated interconnections between nerves in the upper extremities. Improper positioning can set off a chain reaction of pressure causing permanent damage to the optic nerve. While blindness is an uncommon side effect of surgical positioning errors, its impact is catastrophic.

Thankfully, anesthesia-related nerve damage is easily preventable. A competent anesthesiologist knows how to skillfully place pillows below pressure points, ensuring blood flow throughout the procedure. But the standard of care for nerve damage prevention is not set in stone. Each patient comes to the table with a unique set of risk factors to address. Forming an adequate surgical positioning plan requires careful consideration of:

  • The patient’s underlying health, pre-existing conditions, and medical history.
  • The patient’s height, weight, and age.
  • The type and dosage of anesthesia required for surgery.
  • The length and nature of the surgical procedure.

Bringing a Medical Malpractice Claim

An anesthesiologist’s failure to adequately adhere to and customize the standard of care is a form of medical malpractice. To pursue a compensation claim, the patient will need to hire an expert anesthesiologist to examine their medical history and testify that malpractice occurred. A winning expert opinion will clearly identify the leading medical standards and explain how the patient’s injury would not have occurred without the defendant anesthesiologist’s breach.

As any victim knows, injuries resulting from medical malpractice can alter the course of a patient’s life. Nerve damage specifically can give rise to permanent disability. In addition to ending careers, loss of mobility and blindness carry significant medical and home care costs. Emotional and psychological damages are generally catastrophic. The compensation offered through a personal injury lawsuit is often the only way for an injured patient to restore some semblance of quality of life.

Our firm has worked with countless patients injured due to wrongful surgical positioning. If you have been a victim of this or any other type of medical malpractice, contact us for a free consultation.