Sleep Apnea Patient Given Strong Opiate Drugs After Surgery Dies of Anoxic Brain Injury

Law Firm Newswire



Atlanta, GA (Law Firm Newswire) July 1, 2011 – Anoxic brain injury caused a man’s death after what should have been routine knee surgery.

“In this reported case, the man went to an outpatient surgical center in Marietta, Ga. for what should have been routine knee surgery. It turned out to have been anything but routine. On his way home from the outpatient surgery, he suffered cardio-respiratory arrest, dying two days later, as the result of anoxia,” said Robert Webb, an Atlanta personal injury attorney with Webb & D’Orazio, a law firm specializing in personal injury, malpractice, criminal defense, and business law.

There is much more to this story than meets the eye. At the time of the surgery, the attending anesthesiologist knew the man suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, making him a very high risk patient for post-operative breathing problems, such as depressed respiration. “The surgery went brilliantly, and the man was admitted to the post anesthesia recovery unit. Oddly though, when he was admitted, the doctor wrote up a pre-authorized patient release,” Webb said.

Although the man had no pain when he went into the clinic, the nurse in the recovery unit gave him 1 mg. of Dilaudid IV. Less than an hour later, he got another 1 mg IV and handed him two tablets of Percocet. There was no written record of how much or what, if any, narcotics were to be given the man and none of his vital signs were charted after surgery was completed.

The man’s wife arrived to pick him up and they left the clinic before the full effect of the narcotics kicked in. Prior to leaving, neither the doctor, nor the nurse, assessed his condition. He went into cardio-respiratory arrest on the way home and died two days later.

“Percocet and Dilaudid are heavy duty opioid painkillers, for moderate to severe pain, and are noted to cause or exacerbate respiratory depression, particularly in those with obstructive sleep apnea. Patients with apnea need to be continuously monitored for a minimum of three hours, and should be kept until they are not a risk for post operative respiratory depression,” Webb said.

Not surprisingly, the defendants are denying liability in the death of the man. Will this case be successful? “Likely. The jury may well view the patient being given that much medication in about 30 minutes, when he had sleep apnea, as negligent. Additionally, there were no doctor’s orders and no vital signs charted while he was in recovery,” added Webb, the Atlanta personal injury lawyer.

Not all bad medical outcomes are classified as medical malpractice, and this is why it is important to take a suspected case of medical malpractice to a competent Atlanta personal injury lawyer. Speaking to a lawyer will give the potential plaintiff an idea of what to expect, should their case go forward to court.

Webb & D’Orazio are Atlanta personal injury lawyers practicing personal injury law, business law, and criminal defense in Atlanta Georgia.

Webb & D’Orazio
2551 Roswell Road
Suite 201
Marietta, GA 30062
Call: (800) 275-9144
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