Anaesthesia - Death or Brain Damage - Prevention

Authored by Dr Jennifer Hares, 03 May 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Hayley Willacy, 03 May 2017

During the operation your anaesthetist and their assistant will be with you the whole time. From the time of the initial anaesthetic and throughout the operation they will use a number of monitors. These give the anaesthetist information about your heart, your breathing and the anaesthetic being given. Your anaesthetist will use the information given by these monitors, along with their clinical expertise, to keep you safe.

If the surgery is done as an emergency then the simple answer is that there is little you can do.

If, however, your surgery is planned for some time in the future then there are several things that you can do to minimise your personal level of risk:

  • Stop smoking. If you smoke, even stopping smoking for a few days before surgery will help. There are several sources of help and information to help you. Your GP or local pharmacy will be able to support you.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Set yourself an achievable goal and make a start. The changes in your diet need to be sustainable and NOT a short-term fix.
  • Eat well to improve your nutrition before surgery. Vegetables and fruit with a small amount of protein (for example, nuts or meat) are a good start for most people.
  • Take regular exercise to improve your heart and lungs. It is recommended that you do one hundred and fifty minutes of moderate-intensity (enough to have you out of breath) exercise a week - that's just 2½ hours a week.
  • If you have any long term medical problems, such as diabetes, breathing problems or high blood pressure, make sure they are well controlled before your operation. You might need to go to see your GP to make sure that you are as well as you possibly can be before your operation.

Further reading and references

  • Dr S White; Risks associated with your anaesthetic - Section 15: Death or brain damage Royal College of Anaesthetists, 2017

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