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Potential Dangers of Anesthesia



To the nonmedical community, anesthesia seems like a rather simple area of medicine. However, administering anesthesia to patients is much more complicated and entails quite a few risks. Complications include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Lung infections
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

As a well-informed patient, you should discuss these risks with your anesthesiologist a few days BEFORE your surgery, not when you are on the gurney waiting to be wheeled into the operating room.

Types of Anesthesia

You should discuss the type of anesthesia to be administered and the risks it represents. Some types of inhaled anesthesia can cause dementia and long-term memory loss in older patients.

Your anesthesiologist should also take a detailed medical history from you. Smoking, alcohol, sleep apnea, obesity, medications, and prior medical and family history can increase your risk of complications. A competent anesthesiologist will consider these factors and tailor his or her procedures accordingly.

Monitoring During the Procedure

After you have been given anesthesia in the operating room, a member of the anesthesia team will continue to monitor you throughout the entire procedure. This person will monitor the oxygen levels in your blood and fluid levels to be certain that your body is receiving what it needs to continue operating properly while under anesthesia. If body tissues do not receive enough oxygenated blood, they can be damaged. Certain states allow certified registered nurse anesthetists to perform some of the duties traditionally performed by anesthesiologists. You should ask your anesthesiologist if he or she will be administering the anesthesia and if he or she will monitor you the whole time or if someone will be taking over. If so, find out who and get an explanation of that person's duties and qualifications.

Finally you should ask your anesthesiologist if he or she is board certified in anesthesiology. These anesthesiologists are the most experienced and have passed written tests to obtain their certification. If you are unhappy with or not confident in the anesthesiologist who will be doing your procedure, then ask for another one. It is your choice, not the hospital's. Make sure you are comfortable with doctor who will be there.  Understanding the dangers can help you to prevent a medical malpractice lawsuit down the line.