Risks of General Anesthesia During Liposuction Surgery

Liposuction surgery may be performed while the patient is under local or general anesthesia. Both carry certain risks that should be researched thoroughly before this type of surgery is considered. General anesthesia, however, is by far the most dangerous type of sedation available, as practically every death that has occurred during liposuction surgery can be directly or indirectly attributed to the use of this method.

Liposuction General Anesthesia Complications During Surgery

One of the risks of general anesthesia during liposuction is the potential for the patient’s airway to become blocked. Folks have natural reflexes that keep their respiratory system clear, such as sneezing or coughing.  However, when a person is unconscious, these reflexes do not kick in, and anything that may become inadvertently inhaled by the patient will not be expelled.

In approximately 1 in 3,000 general anesthetics, the contents of the stomach become aspirated. This means that the patient regurgitates some or all of the contents of the stomach, which then become sucked into his lungs. Besides the obvious danger of choking to death, there is a danger of damage to the patient’s lungs ranging from a mild case of pneumonia, to a disease called adult respiratory distress syndrome. This is the inability of the patient to adequately oxygenate the blood, and can be life threatening.

What are the risks of general anesthesia?

There also exists a risk that the breathing apparatus may malfunction. When undergoing general anesthesia, a tube is inserted into the back of the patient’s throat, which provides oxygen for the lungs. Should the machinery fail or the tube become blocked, the patient will not be able to breathe and this becomes a real danger, especially if this goes undetected by the anesthesiologist or surgeon.

Another problem, which may occur is a bad reaction to the general anesthesia drugs that are administered. A patient could be allergic to the drug, or they may have other drugs in their system, which react in a bad way to the one administered by the anesthesiologist. In addition, the patient could accidentally overdose on the drug, either by a miscalculation by the anesthesiologist, or an equipment malfunction.

Indirectly, general anesthesia during liposuction can be a danger to the patient in that it allows the surgeon to do much more liposuction at one time than when the patient is numbed using a local anesthetic. Patients have a threshold at which too much liposuction is dangerous to their bodies, and some surgeons may exceed that limit. Besides the danger of this happening, excessive liposuction in a single day can cause aesthetic problems such as sagging skin, lumps, and dents, which would then require additional surgery to remedy.

Mitigating the Risks of General Anesthesia

While no one can be one hundred percent positive that they are safe from any of these risks, there are a few things that patients can do to mitigate the danger.

First, if general anesthesia is the method of sedation chosen during liposuction, the patient should ask for a licensed anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist to administer the drug. This cuts down on the possibility of human error during the procedure, and reduces the chance of an undetected equipment failure. Somebody who focuses on anesthesia on a daily basis will be intimately familiar with the equipment that is used, and would be more likely to recognize a failure, should one occur.

The patient should also make sure that adequate lifesaving equipment would be present during the procedure, especially if it is being performed in a surgical center or a doctor’s office, as opposed to a hospital. Defibrillators and rescue drugs are necessary to have on hand in the unlikely event that they would be needed.

If these precautions are taken, liposuction candidates can cut down on the many risks that are present when using general anesthesia.

Updated: May 5, 2016
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