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What are the risks of general anesthesia?

Any time you have to get a surgery or have a medical treatment, there's a risk of error and side effects. Adverse effects can be life altering; in some cases, they can be deadly.

General anesthesia is one thing you may have to be placed under if you need to have surgery. This kind of anesthesia is usually very safe, but there are risks of complications for some people. There are additional risks to those who smoke, have seizures, have sleep apnea, suffer from diabetes or have other conditions that involve the kidneys, heart or lungs. Those with these conditions could be at an increased risk of pneumonia, stroke, heart attack or postoperative confusion, to name a few possible side effects.

Another unusual side effect of the anesthesia is something called unintended intraoperative awareness. This is when a patient is partially awake during general anesthesia. It's not common, and only around one to two people out of every 10,000 suffer from the condition.

The problem with the experience is that the patient won't be able to let the doctors know he or she is awake. There are muscle relaxants given before an operation, and that makes it hard or impossible to move. Speaking may also be impossible. It's possible for patients to therefore be, essentially, paralyzed throughout the operation. Some may feel everything.

It's not normal to have general anesthesia go wrong in most cases, and the risk to patients is usually low. If you've suffered from being awake during surgery, it's more likely that your anesthetics wore off or that you weren't being monitored correctly, which may be something for which your New Jersey attorney can help you claim.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "General Anesthesia," accessed Jan. 26, 2016

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