Anaesthetic Awareness Claims

Reviewed by
Peter Rigby, Director of Medical Neglience

We've got your anaesthetic awareness claim covered

Anaesthetic awareness means that a patient is conscious or semiconscious during a surgical procedure. This often occurs in procedures where an effort has been made by clinicians to use the minimum amount of anaesthetic and this has been insufficient to ensure complete anaesthesia during the procedure.

As well as the initial pain and fright from the experience, patients often experience long-term psychological effects as a result.

If you or someone you care about has suffered anaesthetic awareness because of poor medical treatment, we want to hear from you.

Here, we outline what goes into making your anaesthetic compensation claim, from:

  • Your initial suffering and what this means
  • How it feels during anaesthetic awareness
  • How and why this has happened
  • How we can process your claim

All our legal professionals are experts in medical negligence and will handle your call with care and consideration.

For your claim to succeed, we will need to prove two things “on a balance of probabilities “ (this means “more likely than not”) – first, that the care you received was below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent medical professional, and second, that this substandard care has caused you to suffer an injury which you would otherwise not have suffered.

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What it means to suffer anaesthetic awareness

A comprehensive national survey of anaesthetists found that reports made to them of accidental awareness during general anaesthesia (AAGA) were rare, at about one case per 15,000 general anaesthetics. However, while the numbers are small in absolute terms, such cases often settle in the claimant’s favour.

If you are considering making an anaesthetic injury claim, you may be experiencing one (or more) of many debilitating after-effects, which include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Other ongoing psychiatric conditions
  • Flashbacks

Flashbacks as a result of anaesthetic awareness or anaesthetic negligence are vivid experiences whereby an event or time of trauma feels as if it is happening once again.

For some, flashbacks can feel as if somebody is replaying what happened to you in technicolour detail, as if watching a film. To others, there are signs of:

  • What happened being replayed before their eyes
  • Taste, sounds and smell can become extremely sensitive
  • Feelings of pain can arise, almost from nowhere, related to the incident
  • Memories or thoughts at the time of the incident can come back

How the patient feels during anaesthetic awareness

When anaesthesia awareness does happen, patients report varying levels of sensations and awareness.
Most patients will only experience a hazy and very brief awareness, frequently one incident during surgery – for example, the sensation of something being inserted into their mouth, or awareness of people moving and talking around them. Slightly more serious are those cases where the patient is conscious of their surroundings but experiences paralysis. Most episodes of awareness are short, lasting no more than five minutes, but no less distressing for that.

There are also rare examples where a patient experienced incredible physical pain. Worse, they were unable to communicate what was happening.

Most instances of anaesthetic awareness happen at the beginning or end of surgery – as the surgeon is putting you to sleep or you are waking up.

If you have felt anything at all under general anaesthetic, then those responsible for ensuring that you were unconscious may have breached their duty of care to you. Generally speaking, under the correct dosage of anaesthetic you should not feel a thing because of your unconscious state.

Common reasons for anaesthetic awareness

Incorrect dosage

The wrong dosage of medicine is a common reason for anaesthetic awareness.
If the dosage was too low and starts to wear off during surgery, you may start to regain your sensations of touch, sound, smell and even sight.

If this happens, the sensation is usually brief, but patients have been known to be able to recall conversations between those operating and hear the room’s machinery around them. If this happened to you, our team will take a detailed statement to use as evidence in making an anaesthetic injury claim.

Medical condition-related surgery

There are a number of risk factors which can increase the risk of anaesthetic awareness during surgery. These include:

Patient factors

  • Being aged 25-45
  • Being classed as obese
  • Being female

Types of Surgery

  • Obstetric (childbirth) surgeries
  • Thoracic (chest) surgeries
  • Cardiac (heart) surgeries

These types of surgery are higher risk because the use of anaesthesia itself is higher risk. For example, in childbirth cases, surgeons need to consider the effect of anaesthesia on both mother and child and may misjudge the correct dose.

Clinical Settings

  • Use of muscle relaxants
  • Emergency use of anaesthesia
  • Out of hours surgery
  • Interaction with other medication
  • Alcohol and drug use

For these reasons, it is vital that the operating clinicians take as full and detailed a medical history of their patients as they can before surgery so that they are in a position to make the best possible judgement about the treatment to give.

Inexperienced medical staff

Another factor is when the anaesthesia is performed by inexperienced or unsupervised trainees or medical professionals.

For a clinical negligence claim to be successful, it is necessary to show first of all that the care you received was below the standard which can be expected of a reasonably competent medical practitioner. This applies to trainees as much as it does to fully-qualified staff, because it is assumed that there will be proper supervision and training in place.

Experience and know-how is key, and those monitoring the anaesthetic should have the necessary level of training and experience. If that is not so, then there may have been negligence.

Equipment failure

Faulty equipment can be another reason for anaesthetic awareness. All necessary equipment should be checked at the start of every day to ensure that it is in working order, and there should be back-up equipment and drugs available at all times. Staff should be trained and equipped to deal with those situations where both main machinery and any back-ups are faulty.

Processing your anaesthetic awareness claim

To make your anaesthetic awareness claim, you can speak with our specialist and expert medical negligence team today.

When you call, you will receive a free consultation that will allow you the opportunity to share your experiences with a registered, legal partner.

In addition to this, any information that we take from you will be done so in line with the very latest data protection and GDPR regulations, safely and securely.

From your initial enquiry, right through to finding out if your claim has been accepted, we will respond in a timely and human way that will provide you with the answer to whether you have a case to put forward.

We are flexible in our approach, meaning we have experts in your claim area ready and waiting to take your call today.

Any claim made will operate on a No Win No Fee basis, and we are also the UK’s top-rated Medical Negligence specialists, according to TrustPilot.

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Meet the team

Peter Rigby

Peter Rigby
Director of Medical Negligence Serious Injury

Peter leads the Medical Negligence Serious Injury department, which now boasts some of our most knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking team members.

Peter is dedicated to supporting victims of catastrophic medical negligence injuries and endeavours to provide a clear and coherent approach to claims. He recognises the effects serious injuries can have and therefore ensures his customers’ need for support is met. Peter also has a vast amount of experience working with customers who have been injured abroad and is able to act under international law to provide the best outcomes.

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Why Choose Patient Claim Line for your Medical Misdiagnosis claim?

Not just lawyers — medical negligence experts

Patient Claim Line was established in 2014 and consists of a team of medical lawyers specialising in medical negligence and misdiagnosis claims.

At Patient Claim Line we have more than 100 solicitors with combined experience of over 400 years and they will work on your behalf to achieve the best result possible for you.

It's not enough to use a solicitor who sometimes covers medical negligence. You need someone who knows this area through and through. That is what the solicitors here at Patient Claim Line do. They deal exclusively in this area of law and are experts in the field.

Meet the medical negligence team

Peter Rigby

Peter Rigby
Director of Medical Negligence Serious Injury

Peter leads the Medical Negligence Serious Injury department, which now boasts some of our most knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking team members.

Peter is dedicated to supporting victims of catastrophic medical negligence injuries and endeavours to provide a clear and coherent approach to claims. He recognises the effects serious injuries can have and therefore ensures his customers’ need for support is met. Peter also has a vast amount of experience working with customers who have been injured abroad and is able to act under international law to provide the best outcomes.

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Christian Beadell

Christian Beadell
Head of Medical Negligence

Christian is Head of Medical Negligence at Patient Claim Line and has specialised in clinical negligence claims since qualifying in 1998; having dealt with a wide variety of claims throughout his career. He is also featured in the Legal 500 as a recommended claimant solicitor in the North West.

Christian qualified as a solicitor in 1998, specialising in clinical negligence. From 2010 onward he has had a particular interest in gynaecological and urogynaecological claims, having represented several hundred claimants in the George Rowland Litigation against the Liverpool Women’s and Aintree Hospitals. This investigated the treatment given to women in the Merseyside area over several decades, and in particular focused on the introduction and development of mesh into the UK in both the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The development of this area involved pursuing claims under a unique ADR protocol with the NHS and also looking to develop the current thinking on the valuation of compensation for complex urinary symptoms. He has successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation on behalf of my clients.

Christian was also involved in setting up and chairing a Claimant Support Group for those involved in the Rowland litigation, which provided a discussion forum for the many women who were left isolated and damaged by negligent gynaecological treatment. He now co-ordinates the firm’s mesh claims and has delivered training and commented extensively on the medico-legal implications of urogynaecological / mesh complications. He is a member of APIL, Liverpool Law Society and Legal 500 recommended.

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Francesca Paul

Francesca Paul
Associate Solicitor

Francesca Paul is an Associate, Senior Solicitor and Team Leader within the Clinical Negligence Department.  She is one of the driving Solicitors in the Group Litigation Team dealing with this niche and specialist area of work that Fletchers undertakes.   

Francesca previously worked in Nottingham, dealing with Group Action work.  She now works at Fletchers, bringing with her those years of experience heading up a team of 10 people.  Francesca is involved in the early identification of potential new Group Litigation Work and analyses information from the collective pool of new enquiries into the business, of which there are hundreds per week looking for hot spots or recurrent issues which might suggest a potential pool of Claimants.   

One of the highlights for Francesca and her team is that they have successfully recovered over a million pounds in compensation for clients who have received treatment from a single orthopaedic surgeon who was operating in the Colchester area.  Her role requires a specific set of skills, patience and a forensic approach to detail whilst being able to see the wider picture.   

Francesca has previously acted for a claimant in a case that reached the Supreme Court in the case of NA v Nottinghamshire County Council. 

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Sion Wynne

Sion Wynne
Team Leader/Senior Solicitor

Sion is a team leader and senior solicitor with many years’ experience in dealing with a wide range of medical specialisms and different types of injuries. He is an experienced medical negligence solicitor and manages a team of lawyers within our department.

Sion joined Fletchers in 2018 as a Team Leader in the Medical Negligence Department. Throughout his 24 year legal career, he has specialised in conducting medical negligence claims on behalf of Claimants, previously working for other highly ranked leading firms in the field.

He has undertaken claims covering the full spectrum of medical specialisms, clinical settings, categories of defendant and types of negligent medical care and treatment.
These include high value and complex maximum severity cases, such as those involving limb amputations and permanent neurological injuries.

Sion is experienced at representing bereaved families at inquests and has a particular interest in fatal accident claims.

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Sarah's Story

"Now we have peace of mind"

My husband, Nick, went back and forth to the doctors for a long time and tried everything the doctor recommended. But his illness got worse, to the point that he was in agony.

In the end we got so desperate that we asked for a referral. The doctor was reluctant, so we had to consult a private hospital. That’s when we found out there was a tumour. It took years from the onset of his illness to finally start cancer treatment.

He used to be a man with a lot to live for, but in the end he was in so much pain that he withdrew from the family. He became angry that nobody had helped him sooner, and the legal team were able to give him the validation that he was desperately seeking. The NHS confirmed if they had done more, Nick would still be alive today.

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