Vital Signs

The Official Blog of Virtual Wellness

5 Key Facts You Didn't Know About Going Under

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Many persons in the Caribbean have had to undergo either emergency or elective surgery for a variety of reasons. Others may also face this fate in the future.

Here are 5 little known facts about anaesthesia:

1) Not all anaesthesia makes you sleep: When most people are told by their surgeons that they require a procedure under anaesthesia the first thing they think about is general anaesthesia; a type of anaesthesia that makes you unconscious and unable to move at all. However, there are other types of anaesthesia.

There is also local anaesthesia performed for example by dentists before filling or extracting teeth or by surgeons when trying to repair a localised laceration or cut.

Then there is regional anaesthesia which, for example, many mothers would know about during childbirth. Regional anaesthesia will leave you fully awake but will knock out the pain and even movement of a particular area of the body.

2) Being obese can increase the risk of your complications: obesity can cause issues with dosing of medications given by the anaesthetist.

There are also increased challenges with anaesthetic procedures such as passing a tube into your windpipe and obtaining intravenous access.

Furthermore, obesity increases your risk of oxygen and airflow issues so it’s advisable to lose weight before an elective surgery.

3) Smokers are at higher risk of complications: cigarette smokers and marijuana users are at an increased risk of developing breathing complications and suffering heart attacks during and after surgery since the heart and lungs of a smoker does not work as well as they should.

Marijuana users also require more anaesthetic drugs to be put to sleep and higher doses of painkillers during and after surgery.

Additionally, smoking slows healing putting you at an increased risk of developing an infection at the surgical site.

Quitting smoking even the day before your surgery can lower your risk of complications. This is another reason smokers should call it quits; you never know when you may need surgery.

4) Waking up during surgery?: some people believe this is the stuff seen only in the movies. Whilst this is rare, “anaesthesia awareness” can happen whereby a patient during surgery may be aware of what is happening and even recall the events after surgery. Luckily patients usually don't feel any pain and the episodes may be brief. Talk about sleeping with one eye open!

5) Nausea and vomiting is a common complication after anaesthesia: this is most likely caused by some of the anaesthetic drugs and painkillers. It can be a worse experience than the pain itself.

Whilst your anaesthetist will give you drugs to prevent nausea and vomiting, there’s no harm in also trying a natural remedy.

A few journals have reported that patients who sniffed essential oils upon waking up from anaesthesia, such as ginger, peppermint or lavender oil, were less likely to require anti-nausea drugs.

A gauze pad soaked with the essential oil was given to patients and after three deep inhalations they felt less nauseous.

Bring an essential oil to theatre next time? Ask your anaesthetist.

Dr. Vaeda N. Ramadhin (MBBS; DM Anaesthesia) is a Consultant Anaesthetist at the Mt. Hope Women’s Hospital, Trinidad, and a contributor to Virtual Wellness.

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Health Disclaimer:

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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