How Safe Is General Anesthesia?


General anesthesia is a state of controlled unconsciousness. During a general anesthetic, medications are used to send you to sleep, so you’re unaware of surgery and don’t move or feel pain while it’s carried out. It’s usually used for long operations or those that would otherwise be very painful. General anesthesia is overall very safe.Most people even those with significant health conditions are able to undergo general anesthesia itself without serious problems. It’s not clear exactly how it works, but it’s known that all anesthetics interrupt the passage of signals along the nerves. This means that any stimulation to the body doesn’t get processed or recognized by the brain.

Many patients express more nervousness about anesthesia than the diagnosis they have been given, the surgical procedure they are about to undergo, or the risk of postoperative pain. Over the last two decades, tremendous strides have been made to increase the safety of anesthesia use. Deaths related to anesthesia have decreased from two per 10,000 anesthetics administered 25 years ago to one per 200,000–300,000 today. A chance of dying from a meteorite or comet hitting you is 1 in 600,000, so anesthesia is technically riskier than being hit by objects from space.

But, there are some serious complications witch are associated with general anesthetics. These are rare, occurring in less than 1 in every 10,000 cases.

Possible serious complications and risks include:

  • a serious allergic reaction to the anesthetic (anaphylaxis);
  • an inherited reaction to the anesthetic that causes breathing difficulties;
  • waking up during your operation – but this is rare, and the amount of anesthetic given will be continuously monitored to help ensure this doesn’t happen;
  • death – this is very rare, occurring in 1 in every 100,000 to 1 in every 200,000 cases;

Overall, general anesthesia is safe and it’s getting safer over the last two decades. It is safer because advances in technology have made patient monitoring much more advanced. Anesthesia providers are now able to monitor all of your vital signs continuously. Advances in pharmacology have given anesthetists safer drugs that mitigate side effects. Most of these drugs are quick acting and disappear rapidly from your bloodstream.Anesthesia provider can titrate them according to your vital signs and requirements.

Your anesthetist will discuss the risks with you before your operation. You should try to stop smoking or drinking alcohol in the weeks before surgery, as doing so will reduce your risk of developing complications.

You may also be advised to lose weight, and if you can you should increase your activity levels in the weeks before surgery, as this is likely to reduce your risk as well.

Hopefully, this article helps alleviate some fears you may have had regarding anesthesia. The best way you can help prevent any complications is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While the risk of problems under anesthesia is very low.They do increase in unhealthy individuals. In most cases, the benefits of being pain-free during an operation outweigh the risks.


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