is a sort of black box to many. Most understand they will go to sleep
and wake up, but not much about what happens in between. Since its inception in 1846, anesthesia has gone from a curiosity to a highly technical science. Although we still have a great deal to learn about its properties and effects, we understand a great deal more than we once did. The current death rate from anesthesia is about 5 deaths per 1 million anesthetics administered. Although this may seem like a very rare event, for the 5 individuals and their families it is catastrophic. Especially when it happens to a young and healthy individual having a routine operation.
Current technology, medications and training make anesthesia very safe. Computers have created a revolution in monitoring that allows anesthesiologists to have a great deal of information at their disposal to use in the administration of your anesthetic
. Medications have become increasingly safe and effective. They are very short acting so that you may have a procedure in the morning and be back to completely normal within 2 hours or less of the end of the anesthetic. Also important is the training and experience of your anesthesiologist. The web has made it very easy to find information regarding these.
This brings me to the rare but known conditions that expose you to a higher level of risk than the average patient. There are several genetic conditions that require your attention. These include a condition known as malignant hyperthermia. This is a genetic defect that that can cause a deadly fever
to arise during anesthesia with inhalational anesthetics. It is usually in families but may have been confused with something else by your descendants. Testing for this is expensive and not necessary. All qualified anesthesiologists know about and watch for signs of this condition. If you or your immediate family (brother, sister, mother, father) have previously had a general anesthetic without complications, it is highly unlikely to be a problem. The other condition you may read about is psuedocholinesterase difficiency. A mouth full! it is genetic condition where one is diffident in an enzyme that causes a "prolonged awakening" after anesthesia when a specific muscle relaxant, succinylcholine
, is used. This is usually not deadly but can be traumatic for all involved.
Overall, anesthesia is extremely safe today if given by a qualified, experienced and attentive anesthesiologist. Hope this helps.