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The operation was a success, but the patient died. We have all heard this story more than once in our lives. The even more common story is that the operation was a success, but the patient has permanent neurological injuries as a result of the anesthesia.

Anesthesia complications are often the tragic permanent injury left behind by the surgical team. Part of the problem, from my point of view, is that the team is not much of a team. Another part of the problem is that a patient is not likely to take as much care in selecting the anesthesiologist and the method of anesthesia as he is the surgeon or the operation. This is unfortunate because the greatest risk in many surgeries lies in the anesthesia.

I have most recently resolved a medical malpractice matter in which very complicated surgery went very well, but the patient was left a paraplegic because of errors in the anesthesia. This situation has been a recurring pattern in my practice. Even relatively safe same-day surgeries have involved very serious anesthesia complications in my practice. I see the same pattern throughout the U.S. A patient in Pennsylvania who is now unemployable because of an error in anesthesia caught my eye.

The story is in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A jury yesterday awarded more than $1 million to a North Hills man who suffered a permanent sciatic injury and accompanying complications after he underwent knee surgery seven years ago at UPMC Presbyterian.

The jury found that Dr. Toshok [the anesthesiologist] failed to fully inform Mr. Nahay, in accordance with state law, of the risks, complications and alternatives to the type of anesthesia he received.

The anesthesia left Mr. Nahay unemployable and with constant pain and numbness in one foot, said his attorney, Mike George.

Mr. Nahay, 47, underwent same-day knee surgery on Feb. 11, 1999. He’s had similar surgery in the past, usually done under general anesthesia.

But in 1999, Dr. Toshok used a nerve-blocking technique that involved an injection into his sciatic nerve. This numbed only the limb on which he was to be operated, Mr. George said. His client was reluctant to cooperate, fearing the complications that he, in fact, eventually suffered.

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