If your child suffered a serious injury during his or her tonsillectomy, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact our office for a free consultation. You may also download or request his free guide to filing a surgical malpractice claim in Ohio. Our Cleveland surgical injury attorneys have more than 30 years of experience, as well as the skill, knowledge, and resources to fight for a fair recovery on your behalf.
WHAT IS A TONSILLECTOMY?
During a tonsillectomy, a surgeon cuts or burns the glands in the back of the throat, per MedlinePlus.
“Thirty years ago, most tonsillectomies were performed to treat repeat infections,” the Sun-Sentinel reported in 2010. These days, doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat acute and chronic tonsillitis, strep throat, tonsil stones, and mononucleosis. 80 percent of the time, surgeons remove tonsils to treat sleep apnea, the newspaper stated. “In obstructive sleep problems, blocked airways can result in low oxygen levels at night, which can be harmful to a developing brain and hamper growth.”
If all goes well during the operation, the child can go home that day.
TONSILLECTOMY SURGERY RISKS
“Every time you get anesthesia during surgery, there’s a risk,” Dr. Michael Roizen told the FDA. Cleveland Clinic’s anesthesiologist and chief wellness officer chairs SmartTots, an organization that funds research on his profession’s effect on children.
For instance, in 2009 and again in 2012, U.S. News reported that anesthesia may cause learning disabilities. However, Dr. Caleb Ing told reporters, “… these study results are no reason to delay potentially lifesaving surgical or diagnostic procedures.”
Perhaps a more pressing concern is the potential for an allergic reaction to the anesthesia or an overdose. As one medical consult guide states, there’s a fine line between too much and too little. “Uptake of potent anesthetics is more rapid in children because of an increased respiratory rate and cardiac index and a greater proportional distribution of cardiac output to vessel-rich organs,” the book states. “This rapid rise in blood anesthetic levels combined with functional immaturity of cardiac development probably explains in part why it is so easy to deliver an inhaled anesthetic overdose to infants and toddlers.”
According to a study published in SAGE Journals, “Post-tonsillectomy bleeding is one of the most worrisome otolaryngology concerns.” In reviewing seven hemorrhage cases, “All postoperative deaths were due to bleeding and cardiopulmonary arrest.”
Tonsillectomy deaths are rare; “Medical literature places the mortality rate… between one in 15,000 and one in 35,000 procedures, mostly from anesthesia complications and blood loss,” the Sun-Sentinel reported when a 12-year-old patient died August 15, 2010—but statistics do nothing to console a grieving parent.
On December 9, 2013, 13-year-old Jahi McMath suffered severe bleeding and cardiac arrest after her tonsillectomy. “Doctors had recommended the [surgery] to treat Jahi’s sleep apnea, weight gain, inability to concentrate, short attention span, and uncontrolled urination,” her uncle told CNN. Sadly, now that the eighth grader has been declared brain dead, her family is left with the memory that she didn’t want to have the operation, according to the Daily Mail. “Her uncle said she had told her mother ‘something bad is going to happen to me.’”
According to state law, the hospital is no longer required to care for its patient.
“Ms. McMath is dead,” the hospital said in [a] court memorandum when her family fought to keep her on a ventilator over the Christmas holiday. “[We are] under no legal obligation to provide medical or other intervention for a deceased person.”
A judge granted the family’s request and, on December 23, extended the court order, so McMath could remain on life support until December 30 as a neurologist conducted an EEG and performed other tests to determine the girl’s odds of recovery, per CBS News.
Latimes.com has reported that “a group of faith leaders sent a letter to the… district attorney’s office requesting a formal investigation into what happened to Jahi.” Her family rightly wants to know “how the girl deteriorated so dramatically after a routine surgery to have her tonsils removed.”
FILING A TONSILLECTOMY SURGERY CLAIM
If you have questions about your child’s tonsillectomy or a surgical malpractice claim, our Cleveland surgical error attorneys invite you to contact our office for a free consultation. You may also download or request our free, easy-to-read guide to filing a claim in Ohio.