View All Articles

7 Myths and Misconceptions About Anesthesia

If you’re facing an upcoming surgery, there’s a good chance you’re feeling jittery about the prospect of general anesthesia.

The idea of being “put under” prompts a wide range of fears for patients, who worry about things like waking up during the procedure, revealing secrets to their medical team or feeling pain.

Before the surgery starts, you’ll have a chance to talk with your anesthesiologist. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information and express any concerns you might have. Having a better understanding of the process will help your recovery go more smoothly, with less stress.

Here are some myths and misconceptions about anesthesia.

  1. Anesthesia Will Wear Off Too Soon

    One of the more common fears is that the anesthesia will stop working at some point during the procedure, and you’ll start feeling pain. But the way anesthesia works is that it is constantly applied, via inhalation or intravenously. You’ll be awakened when the anesthesiologist shuts off the flow of drugs at the end of the surgery.

    There are rare cases – called anesthesia awareness – in which patients can recall their surroundings or feelings of pressure or pain during the procedure.

  2. You Might Die During Surgery

    Every surgery carries some element of risk. But in most cases, this is related to a patient’s overall health, rather than the anesthesia. Patients in a fragile state – consider the case of someone undergoing trauma surgery following a major accident – face much greater risks than those created by anesthesia.

    General anesthesia does affect your vital signs. So, if you are in poor condition, your body may not be able to handle wide swings in your vital signs. But it is extremely rare for the anesthesia to be the cause of death or other serious complication. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was more common for deaths to be related to anesthesia. As many as one in 10,000 patients died. Today, that number is closer to one in 200,000 patients.

    There are many underlying health conditions that can increase your risk, including:

    • Smoking
    • Obesity
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Stroke
    • History of heavy alcohol use
    • Heart disease
    • Poor lung function
  3. You Might Reveal Something Personal

    Another fear is that you’ll start blabbing personal secrets to your doctors and nurses. The reality is that patients don’t tend to say much that’s all that exciting after the drugs hit. It’s far more likely you’ll feel confused or start laughing rather than reveal earth-shattering secrets.

  4. Local Anesthesia Isn’t as Risky

    There is always some risk, however small. But there’s no reason to think general anesthesia is any more dangerous than local anesthesia. The key is making sure the anesthesia application matches the patient and the procedure.

    Trouble can occur, for example, if local anesthesia is used for a surgery better suited for general anesthesia. This sometimes happens when a patient insists on local anesthesia. This could turn into a dangerous situation if the patient is getting an inadequate level of anesthesia for the procedure.

    There also are situations where patients are too fragile for general anesthesia. In those cases, doctors will try to minimize the anesthesia.

  5. Tolerating Pain Will Help You Heal Faster

    The idea that pain is a necessary part of healing pops up from time to time in various medical situations. But research shows that patients experience multiple benefits from the pain reduction provided by anesthesia.

    Nerve blocks that reduce surgical pain can significantly reduce the need for potentially addictive narcotics. With less pain, patients can start rehab faster. And if they feel comfortable, they’re more likely to follow their surgeon’s instructions.

  6. Redheads Require More Anesthesia

    Over the years, there has been considerable debate among researchers about whether or not redheads need more anesthesia. The notion has not been proven to be true, though it is rooted in findings that suggests people with red hair may experience pain differently.

    Far more important, however, are a range of factors unique to each patient. These include body weight, ideal body weight, the surgery, expected duration and complexity of the procedure.

  7. The Anesthesiologist Doesn’t Stay in the Room

    Rest assured that a member of the anesthesia care team will be at your side 100% of the time. This could be the physician or an advanced practice provider.

Choose to Stay in Touch

Sign up to receive the latest health news and trends, wellness & prevention tips, and much more from Orlando Health.

Sign Up

Related Articles