Dr. Horace Difrancesco, anesthesiologist at Humanitas, responded to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding general anesthesia.
In what cases is general anesthesia required?
“General anesthesia is preferable or necessary in all cases where it is not possible to provide local anesthesia. For example it may be necessary in areas of the body where absolute muscular relaxation is required in order to operate.
We opt for general anesthesia even with patients presenting problems of blood clots or who take medications that affect coagulation.
In addition, general anesthesia is necessary when the duration of surgery is expected to exceed a certain time limit. Therefore we don’t force the patient to stay awake on the operating table for too long”.
Is general anesthesia dangerous?
“Absolutely not. Anesthesia is one of the youngest branches of medicine but has evolved a lot over the years. Despite having just over a hundred years of history, it has made great strides thanks to the use of new technological aids and medicines which are increasingly safer and more effective.
According to statistics, today only one in ten thousand interventions fail. A figure to be revised downward soon as it includes anesthesia performed a few years ago when the means available were less evolved.
I always provide the following example to patients who are afraid to undergo general anesthesia. It is more likely to be involved in a serious accident driving on the highway than undergoing surgery with anesthesia, both general and local”.
What are the most common side effects of general anesthesia?
“The most frequent side effects are nausea and vomiting post-operatively, due mostly to drugs and especially painkillers which we use during surgery. It is known that some of these, such as opiates, stimulate vomiting.
There are also more prone patients than others and on average, women are more sensitive than men.
To effectively overcome this problem we administer anti-emetic drugs both during surgery and in the postoperative stage.
In addition, patients who undergo intubation may experience pain in the throat in the hours after surgery. This nuisance disappears altogether the very next day.
The fears of patients towards medications administered during general anesthesia (and in local anesthesia) are unfounded. Additionally these drugs are completely eliminated from the body within a few hours and side effects will be short-lived”.