No. Today general anesthesia is safer than intravenous sedation.
Here’s how it goes:
1. Safest – local anesthesia only
2. Next – local anesthesia with light sedation by mouth
3. Next – general anesthesia
4. Least safe – monitored intravenous sedation (often called MAC)
This surprises a lot of people. General anesthesia used to be riskier. Why? Anesthesiologists couldn’t tell easily if the breathing tube was properly placed or if your blood oxygen level was too low.
What changed? Technology. Pulse oximetry checks oxygen levels second by second. Carbon dioxide monitors tell the correct position of the breathing tube. Monitors show all information on one screen. And much more.
Result? General anesthesia is very safe. How safe? So safe that malpractice law suits over anesthesia deaths more commonly arise from intravenous sedation.
Why? Intravenous sedation puts no tube in your throat to deliver oxygen and it relies on you breathing on your own. If you are too sedated to breathe, your blood oxygen falls and a tube is needed – but may take too long to keep you from having complications.
Some people prefer sedation because you are less likely to get nauseated. But we have medicines to reduce nausea these days. And once my patients know the safety difference, most choose general anesthesia. I do too. You are precious. Your safety comes first.
Copyright May 2012 E Morgan MD