Anesthesia requires a delicate balance. Anesthesiologists must ensure the patient is unconscious during surgery while making sure he or she is getting proper oxygen and blood flow. Since there is so little room for error, anesthesiologists and other medical staff must follow strict protocols when administering general, local, spinal and regional anesthesia during childbirth/delivery.
When they fail to provide adequate treatment, patients can suffer life-changing injuries and even wrongful death. This is especially true when administering epidurals. Even a minor deviation from the correct procedure can cause life-altering injuries to the mother or child.
At The Becker Law Firm, we provide compassionate representation to people who have suffered due to anesthesia errors at hospitals and other medical facilities. Our Cleveland epidural injury lawyers are prepared to pursue full and fair compensation for the losses you have suffered.
Contact The Becker Law Firm today at (440) 252-4399 to schedule your free initial consultation with our epidural injury attorneys in Ohio.
Anesthesia Options for Childbirth
Sedatives or narcotics can be used early in the labor to minimize pain and relax the expectant mother. Drugs used often include fentanyl, morphine sulfate, and Demerol. Complications can include respiratory depression and increased risk of aspiration with the baby.
These drugs should not be given close in time to the expected delivery.
Another option is a pudendal block. Anesthetic, usually similar to lidocaine, is injected into the pudendal nerve. This procedure is often used when delivery occurs by forceps or vacuum; it is also used just before an episiotomy. It is usually given during the second stage of labor, just before delivery. There is some risk that the anesthetic can cross the placenta and travel to the baby.
Epidurals can also be used to limit the pain associated with childbirth. It is usually administered during the active phase of labor and is inserted into the space between L3 and L4 in the spine (lower back). The amount of medication can be increased if a cesarean delivery is required.
Lastly, general and spinal anesthesia are often used for C-sections. One complication linked to spinal anesthesia is low maternal blood pressure, which can cause low heart rate in the baby. General anesthesia is more frequently used for C-sections. The risks include:
- Placental abruption
- Low heart rate for the baby
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Uterine rupture
- Placenta previa
The Consequences of Epidural Errors
According to a 2008 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 61% of women who delivered babies vaginally had epidural or spinal injections for pain relief.
An epidural is typically administered by an anesthesiologist during the active phase of labor when the cervix dilates rapidly and contractions are more forceful. A catheter is placed into the epidural space (between epidural column and outer membrane of the spinal cord), which can permit a constant infusion of pain medication (usually bupivacaine, lidocaine, or a similar drug).
From medical school, anesthesia doctors are taught the four P’s:
- Preparation: physicians must use the correct needle, amount and type of medicine
- Position: the patient must be properly positioned (typically on her side)
- Projection: the needle should be placed where it is to be inserted
- Puncture: the needle must be pushed into the intended area without deviation
At every stage, something can go wrong if doctors are not careful. The wrong medication, patient position, or amount of force can cause injury to the expectant mother and baby.
If an epidural is not properly performed, the mother can suffer from:
- Nerve damage
- Low blood pressure
- Headaches & dizziness
- Cardiac arrest
- Difficulty breathing
- Wrongful death
The unborn baby can also be injured—brain injuries, strokes, coma, and death are all possibilities. Injections often cause an increase in the mother’s temperature, which is linked to higher risks of infant injuries. In fact, babies born to mothers who had fevers during labor have an increased risk for lower blood oxygen, the need for ventilation after birth, seizures, and other problems.
Call Now to Discuss Your Options
The decision about whether and when to use anesthesia during labor is a personal one that should be made in concert with the treating doctor. Childbirth can be incredibly painful, and these medications can provide significant pain relief when done properly. However, done incorrectly, it can cause devastating injuries to both mother and child. If you are suffering injuries from an epidural error or other anesthesia complication, contact The Becker Law Firm today.
Suffering injuries from an epidural mistake or anesthesia error? Contact The Becker Law Firm today at (440) 252-4399 for your free consultation.