When you hear somebody had to have their chest sawed open without anesthetic, you might assume it was some kind of operation or an emergency, where they didn’t have time to do it right. But, as it turns out, there are some old surgeries where anesthesia just isn’t an option.
Anesthesia does three things:
- Keeps you asleep so that you don’t get distressed, fight or remember the experience
- Paralyses you so that you can be intubated and to relax your muscles
- Pain relief: Even when you are deeply asleep. Your body still reacts to pain in the same way that you do when you are awake: a stress response.
With no anesthesia at all, the patient would scream, making the surgeon’s job impossible. However, there can arise the situation where the patient has been deliberately paralysed by the anesthetist, but not enough anaesthetic has been given to keep the patient unconscious.
Generally Anesthesia is safe, but there are some possibilities for the complications. Local anesthesia causes the lowest risk, and general anesthesia causes the highest risk. An allergic reaction to an anesthetic agent can be life threatening and can occur with any type of anesthesia. Drug allergies are unknown until the substance is ingested; so many people are unaware of them.
There are generally few adverse reactions to local anesthesia. Some patients experience nausea and vomiting. There may also be soreness at the injection site.
Regional anesthesia has more risks and complications, including:
- Temporary weakness or paralysis of the affected area
- Headache following spinal and epidural anesthesia
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to urinate
General anesthesia also carries the risk for serious complications. A number of more serious complications are associated with general anesthetics. These are rare:
- A serious allergic reaction to the anaesthetic
- An inherited reaction to the anaesthetic which causes difficulties in breathing.
- Waking up during your operation: This is rare, and the amount of anaesthetic given will be continuously monitored to help ensure this doesn’t happen.
- Death in very rare cases
Generally anesthetist will discuss the risks with patient before the surgery. Doctors suggest patients try to stop smoking and drinking in the weeks before surgery, as doing so will reduce your risk of developing complications. In most cases, the benefits of being pain-free during an operation outweigh the risks.