The risks of anesthesia are, for the most part, related to the patient’s general medical condition. The healthier the patient, the less likely an anesthesia complication will occur.
Specific organ systems must be evaluated prior to surgery to be sure of optimal health prior to any elective procedure. With this in mind, the heart and lungs, general circulatory system, liver and kidneys are carefully scrutinized using specific preoperative testing as needed.
Even with optimal health, anesthesia is a significant stress to the body. Generally anesthesia allows for the best control of blood pressure and oxygenation. Generally, a breathing tube is placed within the trachea (endotracheal tube) to assure proper airflow to the lungs. Placement of this tube can cause irritation to the throat or a sore throat after surgery. Loose or damaged teeth can be chipped or otherwise injured during the placement of this tube.
Specific monitoring lines (IVs, intravenous lines) are usually placed by the anesthesiologists. These lines help to monitor blood pressure, the heart, and allow for the direct delivery of medications to the bloodstream. Included is a central venous line or arterial blood pressure monitoring line. The central venous line is placed into a large vein in the collarbone area. Placement of this line may cause injury to the lungs, and rarely may result in lung puncture or pneumothorax (lung collapse). The arterial line is placed into a small artery at the wrist. The wrist is gently immobilized using a splint for one or two days after surgery, during which time this monitoring line may be used.
Risks of spine surgery using general anesthesia also include, but are not limited to heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, liver or kidney problems, and blood clots in the legs or lungs. Even death is a rare but distinct risk of any surgery.
The anesthesiologist uses different medications during spine fusion surgery to make the procedure as safe and comfortable as possible. Although reactions to medications do occur, these are rare. In general, the risk of a severe reaction to anesthesia in an otherwise healthy person resulting, for instance, in death is roughly one in 350,000. The surgeons at CCSI work with only a small and carefully selected handful of elite anesthesiologists in order to assure that your surgery is as safe as possible.
Your anesthesiologist will contact you the night before surgery to fully discuss these risks with you and answer any questions you may have. Please make yourself available by phone at your home (or hotel) the night before surgery for this purpose.