CHICAGO – There is no such thing as TMI (too much information) when it comes to communicating facts about your health with your physician anesthesiologist before surgery or a medical procedure. You might not think taking ginkgo biloba for memory, using medical marijuana for pain, smoking or snoring are relevant, but these supplements, drugs and conditions are among the eight things you should disclose for your own safety, notes the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).
“Your physician anesthesiologist isn’t interested in judging you, but rather wants to provide the safest, most effective anesthesia and pain relief, which means you need to be honest about your health history,” said Linda J. Mason, M.D., FASA, ASA president. “Your safety is our priority and this information is essential so we can adjust your anesthesia and pain management to ensure the best outcome.”
Anesthesiology was the first medical specialty to focus on championing safety and physician anesthesiologists have continued to lead the way in ensuring patients receive safe care. During Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 10-16), ASA urges patients to be forthcoming about the following health information prior to surgery. Be sure to tell your physician anesthesiologist if you:
- Take anything for your health, including:
Smoke. Smoking damages your heart and lungs and can lead to breathing problems during or after surgery. It also increases your risk of: developing pneumonia; needing a ventilator to help you breathe after surgery; suffering a heart attack during or after surgery; and reducing blood flow, which slows healing and increases the chance of infection. For these reasons, your physician anesthesiologist will likely ask you to stop smoking at least a week or more before the procedure. (And since you’ll heal faster if you don’t smoke while you recover, consider taking the opportunity to quit smoking altogether.)
Use marijuana. Marijuana has a sedative affect and can interact with anesthesia, so it’s important to tell your physician anesthesiologist if you partake, whether by eating edibles, smoking or other methods. Further, smoking marijuana holds many of the same significant risks that smoking cigarettes does.
Drink alcohol. More than two alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of side effects from anesthesia as well as affect the amount of anesthesia you’ll need. Your physician anesthesiologist needs to know if you drink and may request you abstain before surgery.
Snore. If your snoring is caused by sleep apnea – in which breathing is interrupted during sleep – anesthesia is riskier because it slows breathing and increases sensitivity to side effects. Sleep apnea also can make it more difficult for you to regain consciousness after surgery. If you have sleep apnea, the physician anesthesiologist may adjust the sedative, keep you in recovery longer and prescribe non-opioid pain medications.
Have had heat stroke or suffered a stroke. If you or a family member have ever had heat stroke (a reaction to excessive heat when the body is unable to regulate its temperature) or suffered a stroke tell your physician anesthesiologist. Both can increase your risk of having a severe and potentially deadly reaction to anesthesia called malignant hyperthermia, which causes muscle rigidity and a sudden high fever.
Have had a reaction to anesthesia. It’s important to share if you’ve had a bad reaction to anesthesia during previous procedures. Your physician anesthesiologist will ask detailed questions about what happened to adjust your anesthesia and prevent it from recurring.
Have chronic health issues. Many chronic health conditions can have repercussions for anesthesia, including diabetes, heart disease, allergies, liver or kidney disease, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity and seizures or other neurological disorders.
- Medications – Many medications can affect anesthesia or pain management. Research shows a certain class of antidepressant can blunt the effects of some opioids. If you take it, the physician anesthesiologist may choose a different type of pain management. While some medications (such as blood pressure medications) should be continued even during surgery, others may need to be paused for a day or longer. Be sure to discuss all your medications so the physician anesthesiologist can determine the best course of action.
- Supplements – Like other medications, certain supplements can interact with anesthesia. Many people take ginkgo biloba to improve their memory or ginseng as an immune system booster, but both can increase the risk of bleeding. Be sure to tell your physician anesthesiologist what supplements you take and the dosage. Bring your supplements to your presurgical appointment with your physician anesthesiologist, or take a picture of the list of ingredients with your phone.
You should discuss these issues and any concerns you have when you talk to your physician anesthesiologist before surgery. For example, if you are concerned about taking opioids, your physician anesthesiologist can discuss alternatives. Your physician anesthesiologist also will ask you questions and may order tests before surgery, such as a cognitive screen to assess your mental function, especially if you are elderly. Based on the results of those tests, your concerns, the information you provide and your health, the physician anesthesiologist will adjust your anesthesia, pain management and directions for recovery.
To learn more about preparing for surgery, visitasahq.org/wscpreparingforsurgery. You also can download and print Preparing for Surgery: An Anesthesia Checklist and The Path to a Safe Surgery: Preparing for Anesthesia Begins With You to take with you to visit your physician anesthesiologist prior to surgery, as well as when you go to the hospital or outpatient clinic for the procedure. To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS
Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 53,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. Like ASA on Facebook; follow ASALifeline on Twitter.
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