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Understanding the risks and dangers of anesthesia

The safety record for anesthesia has improved dramatically in recent times.

However, if you are facing a procedure that requires anesthesia, it is essential to understand the risks.

Decreasing the odds of a bad outcome

If you have concerns regarding anesthesia, bring your questions to your medical team. Be direct with your questions, and do not pretend you understand something that is not clear.

  • Ask about alternatives: Even in procedures where general anesthesia is needed, you should ask about the pros and cons of other options. Some alternatives include a local anesthetic or a spinal anesthetic. Anesthesiologists recommend general anesthesia for lengthy procedures, as well as those that will result in substantial blood loss and chest/upper abdominal surgery.
  • Review your family history: Ask your immediate family members if they have had adverse reactions to anesthesia. If so, tell your doctor and explain what your family member said. If you have had a problem with anesthesia yourself, tell every medical staff member you meet with so that they are aware of this potential risk.
  • Know your risk factors: Age can be a critical consideration for a patient. Older people have a higher risk for postoperative heart attack, stroke or pneumonia. People with seizures, sleep apnea, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, previous strokes, heavy alcohol intake, and other conditions can be at higher risk of an adverse outcome.
  • Do not eat before anesthesia: The timing may vary but heed your doctor's instructions about not eating prior to anesthesia. "Going under" with food in your stomach can cause you to vomit and breathe in this material. This could lead to choking hazards as well as aspiration pneumonia.

You also may be asked to stop taking certain medications or supplements before the procedure.

Finding an advocate after an injury

Despite medical advances with anesthesia, there are still dangers. If you suspect a loved one has suffered an injury due to anesthesia, you need to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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