How Many Times Can You Safely Go Under Anesthesia?

If you've ever had surgery or you're scheduled for a procedure in the near future, you're not alone. Every year, some 15 million Americans undergo surgery, according to the American College of Surgeons. In most cases, surgery will require some form of anesthesia. Depending on the nature of your surgery, chances are you will be given general anesthesia, the most common form of anesthesia patients receive when having surgery.

Anesthesia is a vital medication since, by causing you to become unconscious or numb, it prevents you from experiencing pain during surgery. In most cases, receiving anesthesia is safe, as long as it is administered by a qualified medical professional. Even so, anesthesia comes with inherent risks. However, if your situation requires you to receive anesthesia multiple times within a short period, the healthcare professionals at Hoopcare explain that this will be safe in most cases. In fact, the more often that one receives anesthesia, the chances of experiencing adverse effects typically decreases. 

Nonetheless, everyone reacts differently to anesthesia depending on health history and other factors, and so those with certain medical conditions should consult with their healthcare provider to discuss potential risks and concerns. Once you understand the nature of any risks, it will then be easier to decide how many times you feel comfortable being under anesthesia and how your doctor can apply your decision to work toward the safest outcome.

Anesthesia risks and side effects

Though being under general anesthesia is safe for most people, you may find you have to contend with some side effects resulting from anesthesia following surgery.

The type of issues you may experience will depend on the nature of your surgery and your overall health. For instance, some common side effects that may arise after having been under anesthesia include nausea or vomiting, dizziness, sore throat, dry mouth, and muscle aches, among others, per the Mayo Clinic. The good news is that most side effects related to anesthesia will resolve within 24 hours.

The Cleveland Clinic also notes that, though rare, there are other more serious complications associated with undergoing anesthesia that can potentially arise. For example, anesthesia requiring a breathing tube could cause a collapsed lung, which is when fluid fills air sacs in your lung or the lung deflates. Another rare but potential risk is temporary or permanent nerve damage. Anesthesia may also lead to a condition called postoperative delirium, which presents as a sense of confusion and may lead to memory loss or learning issues. Older people are usually the most prone to postoperative delirium. Affecting roughly one in 1,000 people, anesthetic awareness is another possible complication and describes a situation when the patient is aware of the surgery as it's happening.

Different types of anesthesia

There are four categories of anesthetics and, depending on the nature of your surgery, the physicians at UCLA Health explain that your doctor will advise which type is the most appropriate for your situation.

General anesthesia is what people most often think of when they hear about anesthesia. Under general anesthesia, you are unconscious and unaware of any sensations. Regional anesthesia only numbs one area of the body. Two common examples of regional anesthesia are spinal and epidural anesthesia. Sometimes referred to as "twilight," sedation is a mild anesthetic that allows a patient to be awake to respond to questions. Finally, there is local anesthesia, such as lidocaine, which a doctor administers via injection or as a cream.

It is important to keep in mind that after surgery, you won't feel like your "old self" for at least the first day afterward, as anesthesia will still be present in your system. Consequently, you should avoid certain activities for at least 24 hours after surgery, such as driving a vehicle, operating complex equipment, drinking alcohol, or taking any prescribed medications, per the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.