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General anesthesia risks include anesthesia awareness, which is a condition where a person prematurely wakes up. Administering certain types of inhalation anesthetics can cause organ damage. The most severe of the general anesthesia risks, however, is death.
The chances of experiencing general anesthesia risks are generally considered low, although they do exist. To determine the exact chances, each risk must be assessed individually. In many cases, there still are not solid verifiable statistics. There are several factors believed to increase the chances of general anesthesia risks. These include obesity, drug allergies, and taking medication that increases bleeding.
Each year in the United States (US) alone, it is estimated that tens of thousands of individuals prematurely wake up from the effects of general anesthesia. When this happens, the individual is generally still paralyzed but is aware. During this time, a patient may experience extreme pain, which has been noted to result in long-term psychological damage.
Inhalation anesthesia can be toxic to certain organs. For example, halothane poses a risk to the liver. The use of sevoflurane can result in damage of the kidneys.
Lung infections may develop as a result of procedures that involve general anesthesia. This is generally a risk if people eat or drink too close to the time of their procedures. Vomiting can occur, but due to the effects of the anesthesia, a patient in this condition does not have normal throat reflexes that would allow her to cough or gag. The food or beverage may, therefore, be inhaled into the respiratory tract causing infection. This condition is known as aspiration.
Allergic reactions are included on the list of general anesthesia risks. In many cases, when a person is allergic to these drugs, a connection can be drawn between the incident and the medical history of the patient's family. General anesthesia affects blood pressure and as a result it may also cause patients to suffer from mental confusion, strokes, and heart attacks.
The most severe of the general anesthesia risks is death. In some cases, when a person dies while under the effects of general anesthesia it is difficult to determine if the cause was a complication from the procedure or the general anesthesia. One potentially fatal condition that is known to develop from the use of general anesthesia is malignant hyperthermia. This is a genetic disorder, which can be triggered by inhalation anesthetics, that causes skeletal tissue to decompose.