How to reduce the risks associated with anesthesia

Here are some key points to discuss with you doctor before undergoing surgery.

Risk of anesthesia

Anesthesia helps perform a successful surgical procedure by offering minimal distress and reducing pain in patients. However, sometimes this process may involve some health hazards. To overcome the risks associated with the procedure, patients are advised to take some precautionary measures. These are as follows:

Fast overnight prior to the day of the surgery.

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This is one of the most important steps one should follow. If someone is given anesthesia on a full stomach, the risk of vomiting and pulmonary aspiration (spilling of food in the lungs through the air passages during inhalation) considerably increases. Pulmonary aspiration may increase the risk of contracting pneumonia.

Ask your doctor or the attendant to help you move your limbs at regular intervals

You can only do this if you are under partial anesthesia and can still communicate with the doctors. Remember this is important because, there is a high risk of peripheral nerve damage when you are under anesthesia. Nerve damage commonly occurs due to inadequate blood supply to the nerves, owing to compression while lying down steadily for a prolonged period of time. The severity of such a condition varies from one person to another. Commonly the two nerves,namely, the ulnar nerve and the peroneal nerve get affected due to anesthesia. Such a condition can be avoided if the physician helps you change the position of your hands and legs during the surgical procedure.

Discuss options other than general anesthesia with your physician.

There are other anesthetic approaches like local or spinal anesthesia which are sometimes applied on patients as an alternative method for general anesthesia. Ask your doctor if he could suggest another alternative.

Meet your anesthesiology team and discuss the procedure and risks associated with it.

If you suffer from health issues, you can always discuss the anesthetic procedure and risks involved with your anesthesiology team. Also, remember to discuss how these factors can hinder the procedure.

Ask your relatives and family members if they have responded unusually to anesthesia.

Rarely, some people may exhibit unusual reactions to anesthetic exposure. This may even lead to a rise in blood pressure. Experts have evaluated some genetic factors associated with such abnormal reactions. The family members should always share such experiences (if they had undergone anesthesia during the previous surgery) with the patient who must convey these concerns to his or her doctor.

Inform your anesthesiologist if you drink or smoke regularly

If you are a smoker or drink alcohol on a regular basis, you should be honest with your anesthesiologist. He may tell you if these habits are going to interfere with the anesthesia and may also suggest ways for staying away from such habits during and after the surgical procedure.

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1. Petra Bischoff, Ingrid Rundshagen. Awareness Under General Anesthesia. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108(1 2): 1 7

2. Benjamin N. Schwaid. Reducing the Fear of General Anesthesia. J Am Dent Soc Anesthesiol. Mar 1958; 5(3): 5 8.

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