Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Negligence Lawyers

Failure to Monitor a Patient in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

post anesthesia care unit

After many routine surgeries, the patient is delivered to the post-anesthesia care unit or PACU for monitoring during their recovery.  During this time period, the patient is supposed to be monitored carefully to ensure that no adverse side effects, complications, or reactions occur as a result of the procedure itself or of the medicines or anesthesia administered during the surgery.  Failure to monitor the patient properly can have devastating effects. If your loved one was injured due to medical negligence and failure to monitor their vital signs in the PACU, you should speak to a medical malpractice attorney about the case immediately.

Why Do Patients Need to Be Monitored After Surgery?

There are always risks when a patient has surgery. Many of the adverse effects, however, can be prevented or reversed if caught early on. During the initial recovery here are some things that should be monitored for:

  • Elevations in temperature indicate that the patient may have an infection starting at the surgical site.
  • Declining oxygen levels may occur due to the patient’s breathing becoming depressed or completely stopping as a side effect of the the anesthesia and/or pain medications used.
  • A decreasing or dipping pulse rate indicates that the heart is not pumping enough oxygen to the brain.
  • Respiratory collapse.
  • Throat collapse.
  • Pain.
  • Allergic reactions to medications.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) in the PACU

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage that results from the deprivation of oxygen to the brain. One way this can occur in the PACU is by the staff failing to monitor a patient’s breathing patterns following the administration of narcotic pain medication. Opiates administered for pain relief such as Fentanyl or Demerol, are known to cause respiratory depression.  Failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs while under the influence of such a powerful opiate drug can result in the patient ceasing to breathe and/or breathing properly. Oxygen deprivation that results from this can lead to serious permanent brain damage.

Another way hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) may occur in a patient while in a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, is by way of respiratory collapse. This can be the result of a lung collapse or throat collapse. Throat collapse can occur in patients (particularly obese) patients who are unconscious and left lying on their backs unmonitored.  This may be even more likely in patients who require a tracheostomy. Regardless of the patient’s condition, proper monitoring of the vital signs should catch and allow doctors and nurses to prevent oxygen deprivation before it results in permanent irreversible brain injury.

Call for a Free Consultation

If you suspect that your loved one suffered a hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy from oxygen deprivation due to the negligent failure to monitor their recovery in the post-anesthesia care unit, you should contact Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free case evaluation. We accept calls nationwide and our phone is open 24/7 to discuss your case. The call is toll-free, the consult is free and if we take on your case, we do not charge you a dime unless we make a recovery.Call us today at (713) 932-0777,



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