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As a South Florida lawyer who sues anesthesiologist for medical malpractice I am deeply concerned about patient safety and the quality of anesthesia care that is being provided in Florida’s hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. Anesthesia care is not only very complex and demanding, but when not performed properly, it can have a devastating affect on patients and their families.

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I strongly encourage anyone considering undergoing an elective surgical procedure to ask the person providing anesthesia the following four questions before the day of surgery:

1. Is your anesthesia provider a doctor or a nurse?

You may be surprised to know that Florida is one of the states that allows certified nurses who have graduate level education in anesthesia to administer anesthesia, these nurses are called CRNA’s. Florida Statute 464.015(6) requires that only a person who has a valid certificate to practice as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist may use the title CRNA. CRNA’s typically work with surgeons, dentists, podiatrists and even anesthesiologists.

A current debate is raging in our country as to whether or not CRNA’s should be allowed to provided anesthesia without a physician present. Not surprisingly, anesthesiologists argue their presence helps prevent deaths and surgical complications while the nurses say there is no difference in the drugs and equipment they use and the standards of care they follow.

Physicians who provide anesthesia have at least eight years of medical training and supposedly have the ability to diagnose and treat medical problems that can arise in the commonly referred to “preoperative period.” “Peri” means “all-around” the surgical experience, and includes: medically evaluating the patient before surgery (preoperative); consulting with the surgical team; providing pain control and supporting life functions during surgery (intraoperative); supervising care after surgery (postoperative); and discharging the patient from the recovery unit. CRNA’s do not have the training or experience to provide the same level of care.

Regardless of whether or not you select a doctor or nurse to provide you with anesthesia, you should ask specific questions regarding their qualifications and specific experience in your procedure.

2. Is the anesthesiologist insured for medical malpractice?

Sadly for Florida’s patients injured by careless doctors, there is no requirement that doctors who provide anesthesia must carry medical malpractice insurance. Ironically, I have found that most nurse anesthetist I have sued in Florida do have medical malpractice insurance. Without medical malpractice insurance, you may have a difficult to impossible time collecting damages for any harm caused by an anesthesiologist in Florida.

3. What are the qualifications of the personnel in the recovery room?

PACU or the post anesthesia care unit is where patients emerge from anesthesia following surgery. A patient’s breathing, circulation and level of consciousness have to be carefully monitored when coming our of anesthesia. It is up to the anesthesiologist to determine if the patients have sufficiently recovered and are ready to be sent home or moved to a hospital room. We believe that it is vitally important to have an anesthesiologist present in the recovery room in order to make this determination.

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologist, “the role of the anesthesiologist in this setting includes the provision of medical assessment and diagnosis, respiratory and cardiovascular support, and infection control.”

4. Who will manage you medically after surgery?

Ask specific questions about who will be following you and when for pain control, prevention, treatment of infections and other post operative complications. We strongly urge you to be in optimal health before any elective surgical procedure.

If you have medical problems, such as diabetes, high-blood pressure or are a smoker, you should obtain clearance from a primary care physician before undergoing an elective surgery. You should discuss your health history in detail with your anesthesiologist who can determine if further medical clearance is necessary.

Our South Florida anesthesia mistake attorneys believe that the best way to avoid being a victim of surgery malpractice is to come prepared by doing research on the procedure as well as the specific members of your surgical team.