If you are in a medical emergency where you cannot breathe, intubation is a procedure that can save your life. However, if not done properly, quickly enough or with the right equipment, intubation can cause significant injuries and even death. Problems can easily arise if a medical professional is negligent when performing the procedure, or if the professional fails to intubate the patient when necessary.
We handled a case which resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement where a physician did not properly or timely intubate a young patient, did not use the right equipment, and, in fact, did not seem to know how to perform the emergency procedure. In fact, the doctor had to call in EMTs to help him.
When an intubation injury or death is due to negligence on the part of the hospital or medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have suffered serious harm, or a loved one has suffered harm or death due to negligent intubation in Pennsylvania, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters can help. We have spent decades honing our skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. Our deep sense of loyalty to each client drives us to investigate the facts of your case and pursue each claim vigorously.
Cliff Rieders is a founding member of Pennsylvania’s Patient Safety Authority. He wrote the book on medical and hospital malpractice in Pennsylvania. Rieders is nationally Board Certified and teaches the subject to lawyers throughout the state on behalf of a number of organizations. Rieders has helped to write uniform laws for the 50 states through the American Law Institute, where he is a life member. The attorney has achieved many remarkable results.
Contact us at (570) 323-8711 or by using our online contact form for a free consultation.
What is Intubation?
‘Intubation’ involves inserting a plastic flexible endotracheal breathing tube into the trachea (windpipe) to maintain an open airway and help a patient breathe. The tubes allow patients to be hooked up to a ventilator, or breathing machine, which will keep them breathing. This is done for patients who cannot breathe on their own, who are going to have a surgical procedure, or for the purpose of administering certain drugs. The procedure is frequently performed in emergency situations on critically injured, ill or anesthetized patients to push air into the lungs and to prevent the possibility of airway obstruction.
Intubation is invasive and uncomfortable, so it is usually performed with general anesthesia. Intubation must be done quickly and correctly, or the patient could suffer serious consequences. Unfortunately, there are times when intubation fails or when the tubes are placed incorrectly, and damage occurs. It takes only 4 minutes after oxygen is cut off for brain damage to occur.
A competent physician or health care provider should be able to quickly intubate a patient under a variety of challenging circumstances.
What Are Possible Complications?
The American Society of Anesthesiologists defines a difficult intubation as requiring more than three attempts, in the presence or absence of tracheal pathology. Anesthesia events are routinely reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. Those events are not necessarily negligence, and the circumstances have to be examined in each situation.
Damages may occur due to physical trauma, including tooth damage, damage to the vocal chords, larynx or esophagus, nerve damage, and puncture or tearing of the chest or throat from misplaced tubes, which may lead to lung collapse. Potentially fatal complications include aspiration (breathing in) of stomach contents, which can result in a severe and sometimes fatal pneumonia.
Other damages may include:
- Brain damage from lack of oxygen
- Infection, including pneumonia
- Painful recovery
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
What Constitutes Negligent Intubation?
Doctors, paramedics and other health care professionals must be trained and skilled in intubation techniques so they do not put their patients at risk. If intubation is necessary, the professionals must act quickly since blocked airways can lead to permanent brain damage. Medical professionals must exercise reasonable care in deciding when and how to intubate and make sure the tube is placed correctly.
Negligence acts from intubation include:
- Improperly placing the tube. If the tube is placed in the esophagus instead of the trachea, oxygen can enter the stomach and cause cardiac arrest, ARDS, brain damage, and even death.
- Damaging tissue in the mouth, esophagus, or around the vocal cords. If the tube is inserted roughly, it can bruise and tear tissue. If equipment is not sterilized properly, it can cause infection.
- Failure to notice the tube has become dislodged or disconnected
- Failure to note the potential for complications due to the presence of unusual airway anatomy or other variables
- Not deciding to intubate in a timely manner or not intubating at all when necessary.
- Leaving intubation to a medical student or other health care employee who is not qualified
- Failure to notice warning signs that the patient is having problems and something went wrong with the intubation. Warning signs include difficulty breathing and swallowing, pain in chest, unusual sounds when breathing, and infection.
Medical Professionals Must be Accountable
When negligent intubation occurs, doctors and hospitals are held accountable if injury or a wrongful death results. For example, we achieved a multimillion-dollar result for a young child who died because of a botched intubation. In that case, not only were significant monetary damages paid, but the hospital was required to undertake training and evaluation from experts in the field.
Trust Our Firm for Honest Answers
Medical malpractice law is highly regulated by a complex body of rules. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a verdict, Cliff Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters is familiar with the law with respect to negligent intubation. We have handled a wide variety of medical liability negligence cases. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
If you or your loved one has suffered injury from negligent intubation, do not delay. Contact Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters by calling (570) 323-8711 or by using our online contact form.
Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all medical malpractice matters.
We are dedicated to providing the legal support you need to have a successful case, and we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.