There’s no such thing as too much information before surgery


Posted: March 11, 2019 | Word Count: 622

There is no such thing as TMI (too much information) when it comes to communicating facts about your health with your physician anesthesiologist before surgery or a medical procedure. You might not think taking ginkgo biloba for memory, using medical marijuana for pain, smoking or snoring are relevant, but these supplements, drugs and conditions are among the eight things you should disclose for your own safety.

“Your physician anesthesiologist isn’t interested in judging you, but rather wants to provide the safest, most effective anesthesia and pain relief,” said Dr. Linda J. Mason, M.D., FASA, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). “Your safety is our priority and this information is essential so we can adjust your anesthesia and pain management to ensure the best outcome.”

Anesthesiology was the first medical specialty to focus on championing safety, and the group urges patients to be forthcoming about their health information.

Be sure to tell your physician anesthesiologist if you:

1) Take anything for your health, including:

- Medications — Many medications can affect anesthesia or pain management. While some medications (such as blood pressure medications) should be continued even during surgery, others may need to be paused for a day or longer. Discuss all your medications so the physician anesthesiologist can determine the best course of action.

- Supplements — Certain supplements can interact with anesthesia. Many people take ginkgo biloba to improve their memory or ginseng as an immune system booster, but both can increase the risk of bleeding. Discuss what supplements you take and the dosage.

2) Smoke. Smoking damages your heart and lungs, can lead to breathing problems during or after surgery and increases your risk of: developing pneumonia; needing a ventilator to help you breathe after surgery; suffering a heart attack during or after surgery; and reducing blood flow, which slows healing and increases the chance of infection. You will likely need to stop smoking at least a week or more before the procedure.

3) Use marijuana. Marijuana has a sedative affect and can interact with anesthesia, so discuss if you partake, whether by eating edibles, smoking or other methods.

4) Drink alcohol. More than two alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of side effects from anesthesia as well as affect the amount of anesthesia you’ll need. You may be asked to abstain before surgery.

5) Snore. If your snoring is caused by sleep apnea, anesthesia is riskier because sleep apnea slows breathing and increases sensitivity to side effects. Sleep apnea also can make it more difficult for you to regain consciousness after surgery, so the sedative may be adjusted, you may be kept in recovery longer and you may be prescribed non-opioid pain medications.

6) Have had heat stroke or suffered a stroke. If you or a family member have ever had heat stroke or suffered a stroke, both can increase your risk of having a potentially deadly reaction to anesthesia called malignant hyperthermia, which causes muscle rigidity and a sudden high fever.

7) Have had a reaction to anesthesia. It’s important to share if you’ve had a bad reaction to anesthesia during previous procedures. You will need to answer detailed questions about what happened so your anesthesia can be adjusted to prevent it from recurring.

8) Have chronic health issues. Many chronic health conditions can have repercussions for anesthesia, including diabetes, heart disease, allergies, liver or kidney disease, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity and seizures or other neurological disorders.

You should discuss these issues and any concerns you have when you talk to your physician anesthesiologist before surgery. For example, if you are concerned about taking opioids, you can discuss alternatives.

To learn more about preparing for surgery, visit asahq.org/wscpreparingforsurgery.

This article is available to download for free use in print and online publications. If you must edit the article, please include at least one brand reference. All articles must retain the (BPT) or Brandpoint byline.
Download this Article