Understanding the Risks of Anesthesia




Q: Why should patients care about anesthesia and anesthesiologists?

A: Medical conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease put patients at serious risk of medical complications when anesthesia is administered.

As the physicians responsible for patients undergoing anesthesia, anesthesiologists are trained to identify potential patient risks and to intervene when medical complications do arise. And as physicians committed to the well-being and safety of every patient, anesthesiologists encourage all patients to understand their risks in order to improve their anesthesiology care. 


Q: Do some patients face greater risks during anesthesia than others?

A: Yes, patients with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease face increased risks during anesthesia.


Q: How can patients find out if they're more at risk?

A: A number of resources – including this website – are available to help patients understand their risks during anesthesia. However, we believe the most effective way to understand and prepare for risks during anesthesia is to ask your physician about them before any medical procedure occurs. If you still have questions, we encourage you to talk to your anesthesia provider when he or she is introduced to you during pre-surgical care.


Q: What can patients do to manage their risks?

A: Because the risks are different for each patient, there is no single way to manage against anesthesia risk factors. However, we encourage you to work with your medical team – including your physician and anesthesiologist – before any procedure takes place.

For example, if you are a smoker and you’re scheduled for surgery, anesthesiologists recommend that you take steps right away to quit and remain smoke-free until at least one week after your procedure. Smokers have a greater chance of developing complications, including wound infections, pneumonia and heart attacks, both during and after surgery. The sooner you quit smoking before surgery, the better your chances are of avoiding complications.

Helpful Links

What is Anesthesiology

Total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery.


Anesthesia Topics Quick Links

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Featured Video:

Smoking and Surgery
Learn why stopping smoking before surgery can have an impact on your outcome.

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In Case of Emergency

Download, print, fill out, and keep this checklist. It just may save your life.


Come Prepared

Ask your anesthesiologist questions about what to expect before, during, and after your procedure.


The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.