General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

About Anesthesia

Is general anesthesia safe?

Most people are not afraid of the surgery itself but of anesthesia.  This is a normal reaction since patients are completely not in control under general anesthesia. However, modern anesthetic techniques are extremely safe.  Anesthesia is not a mystical trance you are placed in from which you may not wake up.  

Anesthesia is a very controlled use of drugs to block certain body functions, such as muscle contraction, consciousness and pain.  These drugs can be reversed by other drugs or by stopping their infusion into the veins.  While patients are under anesthesia, vital body functions are all monitored, including the EKG, blood pressure, oxygen in the blood and the amount of carbon dioxide in the breath.  Anesthesia is so safe that there is really no need to be worried about it.  It is safer than driving a car or flying in an airplane.  It is a daily event that occurs millions of times per day without problems.

Types of anesthesia

Some incisional hernias can be repaired under local anesthesia.  With this method, the area to be operated on is numbed using injections of a local anesthetic, much like the dentist does. The patient also receives intravenous medications which make him or her sleepy and often eliminate any recollection of the operation.  This type of anesthesia is usually reserved for small incisional hernias treated by the open approach.

Another approach is to use spinal or epidural anesthesia.  In these approaches a small needle is placed into the fluid of the spinal cord or just above it and an anesthetic agent is injected.  Legs will feel numb and paralyzed during the operation and the patient will not feel the surgery.  This method is also usually reserved for the open approach. Although in some circumstances the laparoscopic approach can be performed with either the local or spinal approach it is generally performed under general anesthesia.  The reason is that it is difficult to prevent the discomfort associated with expanding the abdomen to perform the procedure.