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Anesthesia Information and Emergency Medicine

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How Risky is Anesthesia?

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One part of the risk assessment is based on the patients’ health. The American Society of Anesthesiologists has developed a six-tier scale that stratifies the patient’s pre-operative physical state. It is called the ASA physical status. The scale assesses risk as the patient’s general health relates to an anesthetic.

The more detailed pre-operative medical history aims to discover genetic disorders (such as malignant hyperthermia or pseudocholinesterase deficiency), habits (tobacco, drug and alcohol use), physical attributes (such as obesity or a difficult airway) and any coexisting diseases (especially cardiac and respiratory diseases) that might impact the anesthetic. The physical examination helps quantify the impact of anything found in the medical history in addition to lab tests.

Aside from the generalities of the patients health assessment, an evaluation of specific factors as they relate to the surgery also need to be considered for anesthesia. For instance, anesthesia during childbirth must consider not only the mother but the baby. Cancers and tumors that occupy the lungs or throat create special challenges to general anesthesia. After determining the health of the person undergoing anesthetic and the endpoints that are required to complete the procedure, the type of anesthetic can be selected. Choice of surgical method and anesthetic technique aims to reduce risk of complications, shorten time needed for recovery and minimise the surgical stress response.

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