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Awareness of the Risks Associated with General Anaesthesia

Victor Lewin - Saturday, February 21, 2015

Patients undergoing surgical procedures in Canada may worry about the various risks that may be involved. Surgery can be helpful for addressing a variety of physical needs, but there are instances in which the outcomes can be adverse. General anaesthesia is one of the areas of risk that need to be understood when plans are made to receive treatment through surgical methods.

General anaesthesia makes it possible for major procedures to be completed while a patient is unconscious, but the loss of consciousness is a concern for most patients. It is helpful to note that this form of anaesthesia is typically safe for healthy patients. In fact, complications are rare even for those who are very sick. Surgery risks are more often connected to the types of procedures rather than to the use of anaesthesia. Complications could occur in those who have serious health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity. Medications being taken or drug allergies can also affect one's reaction under anaesthesia. Advanced age and major medical issues together can also increase risks.

A condition known as anaesthesia awareness is estimated to occur in up to two patients per 1,000. This involves a patient waking up and being aware of surroundings without feeling any pain. However, pain may be felt in some rare instances, and in many such cases, it is impossible for a patient to communicate their awareness or pain. In such a situation, long-term psychological distress could result.

A patient who has suffered through such a situation might wonder if hospital negligence is an issue. If the effects impact one's ability to function and cause significant distress over a long period of time, it might be helpful to have a lawyer review the surgery records to determine whether errors were made.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "General Anesthesia Risks", Jan. 19, 2013

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