Unfounded fear of anesthesia may lead as many as one in four patients to postpone surgery.
According to the ASA’s most recent Vital Health Report, a quarterly health survey of Americans, more than 75 percent of Vital Health Report respondents expressed concern about the use of anesthesia during surgery, but this fear is unfounded based on the experiences of patients who undergo an estimated 46 million surgical procedures each year in the U.S. That is largely due to the advances in the field of anesthesiology. Over the past three decades, physician anesthesiologists have made impressive strides in improving patient safety, providing ongoing care and comfort for patients, and developing innovations that have paved the way for modern medical procedures. As a result, anesthesia-related mortality rates have decreased dramatically during the past 25 years, from two deaths per 10,000 anesthetics administered to one death per 200,000 to 300,000 anesthetics administered. To help put this into perspective, a person is about 40 times more likely to be struck by lightning than he or she is to die from anesthesia-related complications!
The Vital Health Report also reveals a surprising lack of knowledge about anesthesia, as nearly 40 percent of respondents incorrectly believe that being under general anesthesia is the same as being asleep. Additionally, nearly 20 percent mistakenly believe that general anesthesia numbs a small area of the body without altering a patient’s awareness when, in actuality, a patient is unconscious while under general anesthesia and has no awareness or other sensations.
Education yourself to lessen anxiety and actively manage your Vital Health.
The ASA is urging Americans to reduce their anxiety by educating themselves about anesthesia and to improve their surgical outcomes by actively maintaining their Vital Health. This means living a healthy lifestyle and keeping tabs on the underlying vital measures such as blood pressure and cholesterol that impact overall wellness and medical outcomes. Anesthesiologists are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their patients before, during and after a procedure, but it is equally important for patients to be in the best health possible prior to a procedure.
Learn more about your own Vital Health and tips on improving surgical outcomes and wellbeing.
It’s easy to take the first step by going to Know Your Vital Health Tool to learn more about anesthesia and to use the Know Your Vital Health Tool. The tool offers a series of health-related questions from which patients receive a customized, anonymous report of health and wellness information that can help them better understand their health status and anesthesia risks. The tool offers health management and modification suggestions, as well.
The ASA also offers these tips to reassure patients prior to undergoing a procedure that requires anesthesia:
- Discuss your medical history and inform your anesthesiologist about the medications you are currently taking or have recently taken, including herbal remedies.
- Ask your anesthesiologist about the anesthesia that will be administered, the duration of the anesthesia and the associated risks for a person with your medical profile.
- Check the credentials of the physicians performing your procedure, including the anesthesiologist.
- Work to be in the best possible Vital Health prior to your procedure.
The Vital Health Report is based on a national survey of 1,000 Americans recently conducted by the ASA examining people’s knowledge, attitudes, awareness and behavior associated with health and wellness.
Frequently asked questions about ASA's Vital Health Report 2
Surgical Site Infections: Resources for Patients and Healthcare Providers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Committee on Quality of Healthcare in America, IoM: To err is human, building a safer health system. Edited by Kohn L., Corrigan J, Donaldson M, Washington Academy National Press, 1999, p 241.
Medical Aspects of Lightning.” National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.