Dr. Meegan Gruber Of TLC's Awake Surgery Explains Some Of The Risks Of General Anesthesia - Exclusive

Sometimes people need a surgical procedure to treat whatever ails them. It could be a colonoscopy, knee surgery for a torn ACL, or a simple mole removal. Some surgeries also have the option of either sedation or some type of anesthesia. According to Medical News Today, sedation can be done through an IV or breathing tube/mask, and in some cases, people are awake during the procedure. Meanwhile, if one opts for general anesthesia, they'll be asleep and need breathing assistance.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Meegan Gruber disclosed some horror stories she heard from her patients who've had general anesthesia. "One person said that she woke up terrified, just screaming, cussing," Gruber said. "That does happen to some people, and then there's the people who have had relatives die, or they've seen people in the news [who] have died."

Because of what happens to the body under anesthesia, some patients come to Gruber for her "awake" cosmetic procedures in her Florida office. Audiences can even meet some of her patients if they tune into her TLC show, "Awake Surgery." Although general anesthesia can't be avoided for some surgeries, Gruber explained its risks to Health Digest.

Risk for blood clots

According to Cleveland Clinic, blood clots form to respond to an injury to blood vessels. Blood clots can also lead to a heart attack or stroke if they form in one's arteries. If they form in the veins and move through the bloodstream, they can then get stuck in the lungs. Furthermore, as Dr. Meegan Gruber explained, general anesthesia can increase the risk for blood clots.

"So you have somebody who's lost a massive amount of weight. They're still at very high-risk for a blood clot," Gruber said. "Even after the weight loss, they're at very high-risk for a blood clot, and then you add the five, six-hour anesthesia on for their total body lift, and you're talking about a huge rate of blood clot risk, upwards of 5%, which is ridiculously high."

With this increased risk, as well as the fear that comes with it, this is why her patients come to her for awake tummy tucks. "With patients who are at higher risk, like maybe they had a blood clot before in pregnancy or maybe their uncle died of a blood clot, almost all of these patients have read for years about this surgery before they decide to have it," Gruber said. Although a family history increases the risk for blood clots, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, pregnancy, cancer, or using hormones also increases that risk, according to the American Heart Association.

Risk of breathing and heart complications

Dr. Meegan Gruber went on to say that general anesthesia increases the risk for pneumonia because of the necessary breathing tube. General anesthesia also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes because of blood pressure fluctuations. Gruber used Joan Rivers' fatal complications during surgery as an example, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, Rivers died due to lack of oxygen to her brain.

"So the demand is for people who are afraid, or they saw somebody like Joan Rivers die from her tube being in the wrong place, and she went out," Gruber said. "That's scary, and people know that she died from anesthesia — not from it, but from lack of proper anesthesia, and if she was fully awake having her surgery done, she wouldn't have died. Period."

Because many surgeries involve the risk of complications, Gruber is critical of doctors who aren't board-certified surgeons. "You shouldn't cut on somebody if you can't do it in a hospital because God forbid anything happens," Gruber said. "What are you going to do with that patient? You can't help them."

You can catch Dr. Meegan Gruber on her show, "Awake Surgery," on TLC starting December 14 at 10 p.m. ET.