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    Published On : Fri, Aug 24th, 2018

    Myths about anesthesia

    This is a progressive society. Inspite of that we carry with ourselves certain beliefs and pre-conceived ideas about things mainly because of hearsay. There are some myths about anesthesia and surgery too. As the words ‘surgery’ and ‘anesthesia’ evoke the emotions of fear, people tend to clung onto their ideas with more certainty. Some of the myths are:-

    1)Doctor knows everything : Many times when the patient is asked about their complaints, they respond by saying “Doctor, please examine me and tell what is wrong with me”. They feel that the doctor will examine and find out what is wrong because a doctor is supposed to know everything about the health status. This is a misconception. The history of the progression of disease is important, as based on this knowledge, rest of the treatment part proceeds. So, the patient must inform the doctor not only about the present illness but also the health issues that he or she has suffered in the past.

    2)Anesthesia is given by inhalation of chloroform : Most of the urban class now educate themselves before visiting the doctors. Yet, there is a large population who believe that anesthesia is given by inhalation of chloroform. This is yet another misconception. The origin of this could be the bollywood movies which often show the villain covering the mouth and nose of the victim with a handkerchief soaked in chloroform. For general information, there are three types of anesthesia :

    i)Local : – when surgery is to be done on a small part of the body, only that small part is anesthetized by giving injections locally, for example small swelling on the body or surgery on finger, toes etc.

    ii)Regional : – when surgery involves relatively larger part of the body, the whole region is anesthetized by blocking the sensations in that part. Sensations are blocked by blocking the nerve supplying the whole area with injection of anesthetic drugs.

    For example surgery of the hand or leg, where the whole limb is anesthetized in an isolated manner. The commonest use of this form of anesthesia is in surgeries of abdomen, for example cesarean section for birth of baby. In this form of anesthesia consciousness is not interfered with.

    iii) General:- This involves anesthesia to the whole body where there is loss of consciousness and total amnesia of the event of operation performed on any part of the body. This can be through intra-venous injections or inhalation of anesthetic medication or both.

    3)Fasting before surgery : We seek blessings from the almighty before any important event. Even after giving proper instructions about fasting before surgery, many times patients feel that taking a small piece of sweet which is an offering to god will not be harmful because it is for the patient’s sake that prayers were offered.

    This is a big misconception and can put the life of the patient in danger. Any content of the stomach if gets aspirated under anesthesia can cause severe respiratory problem and lead to a life threatening complication. A few feel that one or two pieces of beetle nut chewing will not be harmful. Usually after a long period of fasting, the mouth develops bad odour due to poor oral hygiene. So, to ward off the bad smell people chew clove, beetle nut etc.

    4)Consent means no responsibility : Many patients think that once the doctor is getting the consent form with written possible complications signed, means doctor is shrugging off his responsibility beforehand so that in case something goes wrong, he is not to be blamed. This is totally incorrect.

    The doctor wants to explain in a receptive atmosphere, the type of procedure or anesthesia that shall be employed and the possibility of any change in the treatment plan if required so that during the procedure it can be done without wasting time, which otherwise can cause a chaotic situation. Also the expected results and the possible complications need to be explained so that the patient can take an informed decision. So there is no need to harbor such thought because inspite of getting an informed consent form signed, the doctor works responsibly & ethically.

    5)Don’t get anesthetized easily : Many patients have this idea that they don’t get anesthetized easily. So they are scared of the pain that they will go through before getting properly anesthetized. This is a false notion. Although the dose of anesthetics may vary from individual to individual depending on the physical & mental state. People who are on psychotropic medication or have addictions to alcohol or drug abuse may require varying amount of anesthetic medications.

    6)Backache following spinal anesthesia : Many patients especially females have this misconception that they developed backache following spinal anesthesia during their previous surgery. This is a common cause of refusal for spinal anesthesia in subsequent operations. This confounded fear is baseless. A thorough history of the patients will reveal pre–existing backache in those patients. It is more likely caused by recent trauma due to lifting weight or strain to the muscles and ligaments around the lumbar spine or can be due to prolapsed disc of spine etc.

    The backache is more attributable to the duration of surgery, position during surgery and period of immobilization after surgery. Backache following spinal anesthesia if any in self limiting which resolves within one week. This is complained more commonly by women who receive spinal anesthesia for cesarean section. Back pain after pregnancy could be related to inability to recover fully from bone marrow density loss during pregnancy.

    With the technological advancements one can educate oneself from the vast world of knowledge using internet. But, ‘Google knows everything’ is the greatest misconception that some people have in their mind. It is dangerous to form ideas or to start treatment based on the unanalyzed, un-coordinated, half baked knowledge gained from internet. One should have faith in their doctor, discuss with them, take informed decision and contribute towards their own health.

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