general information to know about general anesthesia

When informed that they will have to undergo surgery, most patients will naturally want to learn as much as they can from their physician about the procedure and their long-term prognosis.

What is sometimes omitted from this discussion, however, is any meaningful dialogue concerning the anesthesia that will be used during the procedure, as patients simply take it for granted that they will be put under by a highly trained professional in a safe and controlled environment.

While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it could nevertheless prove helpful for prospective surgical patients to learn a bit more about what to expect concerning general anesthesia. To that end, today’s post — the first in an ongoing series — will provide some basic background information.

General anesthesia — what it does and who administers it

When a person is administered general anesthesia, it effectively renders them unconscious such that they feel nothing — neither pain nor actions taken by the surgical team — during the procedure. This is significantly different from other forms of anesthesia, which may leave a patient either lightly sedated or just numb in certain areas of the body (i.e., local anesthesia).

The effect of general anesthesia is produced via a carefully measured combination of inhaled gasses and intravenous drugs often administered by a team consisting of an anesthesiologist and a certified nurse anesthetist. In addition to administering the general anesthesia, this team performs the vital task of both monitoring a patient’s vital signs and ensuring that their breathing is controlled.

The conditions under which general anesthesia is typically used

The use of general anesthesia is far from automatic. Rather, it is typically recommended for those surgical procedures that will likely take a long time, result in exposure to cold surroundings, have an effect on breathing and/or result in significant blood loss.

When an anesthesiologist either prescribes the wrong drug or improperly administers the anesthesia, the results can be devastating. However, it’s important for those who have been victimized by anesthesia errors to remember that they do have options and that an experienced legal professional can outline these options, including the possibility of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: The Mayo Clinic, “General anesthesia: Tests and procedures,” Jan. 19, 2013

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