What are the risks of general anesthesia?

Many surgeries performed in California occur while the patient is under general anesthesia. If you are considering surgery, or have one scheduled in the near future, you may have questions regarding the risks involved.

Anesthetics are drugs used to prevent you from feeling pain during surgery. General anesthesia renders you completely unconscious, making it different from local anesthesia, which only numbs a small portion of your body. 

According to WebMD, the risk of anesthesia errors is significantly less now than it has been in the past. Nevertheless, despite being one of the safest areas of health care today, general anesthesia can still pose risks, especially if you have underlying health conditions or a personal or family history of negative reactions to anesthesia. Your age may also be a risk factor for anesthetic complications.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to prevent anesthesia risks is to pay attention to the preparation instructions that your doctor gives you prior to surgery, particularly in regard to food intake. Surgeons often request that patients refrain from eating anything after midnight prior to surgery because they do not want to risk the patient vomiting while unconscious and breathing in, or aspirating, partially digested food from the stomach into the lungs. Aspiration can pose the risk of potentially life-threatening complications, such asphyxiation in the short term or pneumonia in the long term.

If you have ever had a negative reaction to anesthesia, be sure your entire surgical team is aware of that fact; not only the surgeons but the anesthesiologists and the nurses as well. Because conditions that cause these reactions sometimes run in families, find out if any of your relatives have had severe reactions to anesthesia and inform your surgical team of your relevant family history.

In fact, it is always a good idea to discuss any concerns regarding anesthesia with your doctor (and your anesthesiologist, if possible) prior to surgery. If you prefer not to receive general anesthesia, you can ask if any other options are available to you. The type of anesthesia recommended depends in part upon the required surgery. While some surgical procedures require general anesthesia, other procedures may possibly still take place under a local.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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