Should I Worry About Anesthesia?

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"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.

Question: How safe is anesthesia?

Answer: Anesthesia is risky, but today it is safer than ever for people of all ages. In fact, your age is not as important a risk factor as your health, your medical condition and the type of surgery you'll be having.

Safer drugs and major advances in the monitoring equipment doctors use during surgery have reduced the likelihood of experiencing complications from anesthesia. In the last decade alone, deaths caused by anesthesia have dropped 25-fold, to 1 in 250,000.

In addition, shorter-acting drugs, more specific drugs and new intravenous drugs can minimize the nausea and vomiting that sometimes occur after receiving anesthesia.

Before your surgery, you can expect to be asked questions by your doctors to help them determine the type of anesthesia you need and the dosage. The following have to be considered: any medical problems you might have; any medications you take; whether you smoke or drink alcohol; any allergies you have; a previous negative experience with anesthesia; and adverse reactions to anesthesia by other family members. The information collected by your physicians guides them in their treatment.

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All Rights Reserved @ 2013 by Fred Cicetti.

Fred Cicetti is a contributing writer for Live Science who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter, rewriteman and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey: The Newark News, Newark Star-Ledger and Morristown Record. He has written two published novels:" Saltwater Taffy—A Summer at the Jersey Shore," and "Local Angles—Big News in Small Towns."