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You listened carefully when the doctor explained the risks of your loved one’s surgery. It seems like you held your breath all the way through his procedure, and didn’t relax until the surgeon told you that your relative had been moved into recovery. After all, you were told everything had gone well—so there was no reason to worry.
Unfortunately, many families whose loved ones undergo surgery are mourning the loss of the relative less than a month later due to pneumonia caused by anesthesia.
Aspiration pneumonia is a condition that occurs when a patient breathes in (aspirates) vomit or other fluids while under anesthesia. If a case of aspiration pneumonia is caught early, a patient may be successfully treated with antibiotics—but if allowed to progress, it can cause lung scarring or even death.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that pneumonia after surgery is likely to prove fatal for many patients. The report found that 21 percent of patients who suffered aspiration pneumonia died within 30 days of surgery, many of whom had suffered:
- Early warning signs – Many patients showed infection symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
- Emergency procedures – ER surgeries—especially those involving general anesthetic—were likelier to develop into fatal pneumonia cases.
- Upper body surgery – Most fatal aspirations during anesthesia took place after surgery on the brain, neck, chest, or torso.
Studies suggest that these aspirations occur at least once in 90 percent of sedated patients, but many medical professionals consider this to be a low estimate as many events go unnoticed. If you think your loved one may have suffered wrongful death from an anesthesia error, contact us today to begin an investigation into your case. You can also find more helpful information on our Facebook Page.