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Guide to Anesthesia for Cosmetic Surgery

What is

Would you get a tooth pulled without Novocaine? Of course not! That would be extremely painful, and a tooth extraction is a tiny, localized surgery. Now imagine having your appendix removed without some form of anesthesia. It’s inconceivable, right?

Anesthesia literally means insensitivity to pain. But when we discuss it in surgical and medical context, it’s a temporary state induced by the administration of a drug via injection, intravenous catheter, or gas, or some combination thereof. This drug blocks pain for the duration of the surgery, sometimes to the point of rendering the patient unconscious. Anesthesia is what makes it possible for us to tolerate invasive procedures and biological events that would otherwise cause us intense, excruciating pain.

Anesthesia Types

Three main types of anesthesia are used in surgical settings, depending on the type of procedure being performed, and the patient’s health and medical history. Your anesthesiologist will discuss your options with you before your surgery.

Local Anesthesia

This is the most common form of anesthetic used in cases of very minor cosmetic surgery. In this case, only a small, targeted area of the body is subject to the anesthetic, which is administered under the skin, usually via injection.

Local anesthesia does not result in a loss of consciousness, and may be used should the risks of a regional anesthetic outweigh its benefits.

Regional Anesthesia

For surgeries in the pelvic area, lower abdominal area, or lower extremities, one of two main types of regional anesthesia are used: spinal or epidural. Each one renders a large region of the body without sensation by blocking nerve impulses to the area. However, regional anesthesia does not cause any temporary loss of consciousness.

Spinal anesthetic is so named because it is injected into the spinal canal, specifically the fluid surrounding the spinal cord in the lower back.

Epidural anesthetic is administered via a catheter—a small, thin tube—inserted into the epidural space of the spinal column in the lower back.

General Anesthesia

The most common form of anesthesia used in any major invasive surgery, general anesthesia induces a temporary loss of consciousness. In other words, you’ll be put into a deep sleep during which you’ll feel no pain, and will likely have no memory of the surgery.

General anesthesia may be administered by a gas which is breathed in, and/or an intravenous fluid drip. You will also have a breathing tube inserted into your mouth and throat to ensure your airway remains clear and you’re able to breathe while your muscles are so relaxed.

Examples of cosmetic procedures that require general anesthesia are breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, and gastric sleeve surgery.

The type of anesthesia your anesthesiologist administers will depend on the cosmetic procedure to be performed as well as your health and medical history.

If you still have questions about anesthesia, don’t hesitate to contact us.

General Anesthesia Consultation

Before you have any kind of surgery that requires general anesthesia, you’ll be able to speak with one of our anesthesiologists so you can ask questions, and address any concerns you may have. It’s important that you inform both your surgeon and your anesthesiologist about any:

• Medical conditions you have
• Medications you’re taking
• Allergies you may have

You must share all of this information, even if you don’t think any of it is related to your surgery. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist need this important information so they may ensure your safety and health.

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Preparing for
General Anesthesia

Before you have any kind of surgery that requires general anesthesia, you’ll need to make several preparations both to ensure your safety during the surgery, and to make your post-surgical recovery easier and shorter.

Two Weeks Before General Anesthesia

Your surgery preparation begins two weeks out. If you get an early start, you won’t be rushing at the last minute. Early preparation will also help ensure the necessary arrangements go smoothly.

Two weeks before surgery, you’ll need to arrange for:

  • a friend or loved one to drive you home from the clinic on the day of your surgery.
  • a friend or loved one to stay with you for at least the first 24 hours after surgery.
  • childcare, if necessary.
  • pet care, if necessary.
You’ll also need to make a few temporary changes two weeks before your surgery.

  • Do not drink alcohol
    Alcohol thins your blood, which will prolong healing and increase bruising. Drink water instead to hydrate and nourish your body.
  • Do not smoke.
    Nicotine will prolong your recovery, and increases your chances of post-surgical complications. We also recommend you try to quit smoking altogether to avoid health problems in the future.
  • Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen.
    These drugs interfere with the body’s normal blood clotting ability. If you have a headache or other pain, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead.
  • Do not take herbal supplements.
    Several herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba, green tea extract, ginseng, and garlic can interact negatively with anesthesia. We highly recommend you stop taking all herbal supplements two weeks prior to surgery.The only herbal product we recommend using prior to or after your surgery is arnica cream or ointment. This plant-based product is often used to reduce inflammation, soothe muscle aches, and heal wounds.
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One Week Before General Anesthesia

In addition to all of the above:

Cook and freeze meals for easy preparation while you’re recovering.

Go shopping to have the following items on hand:

  • Antibacterial soap, such as Lever 2000 or Dial
  • Laxative or stool softener (narcotic pain medication may cause constipation)
  • Pick-up tool to help you retrieve things from the floor without having to bend
  • Comfortable robe and/or pajamas
  • Entertainment such as books, magazines, and movies to help keep you occupied while you rest
  • Food:
    • fruit
    • prepared meals (if you choose not to cook your own)
    • saltine crackers
    • gelatin or pudding
    • soup
  • Make sure all foods are low in sodium so as not to increase fluid retention and swelling.
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The Night Before General Anesthesia

In addition to all of the above:

  • Wash your hair and then cleanse your body with antibacterial soap.
  • Do not eat or drink anything during the final eight hours prior to your surgery. This includes sips of water and chewing gum.
    • If your stomach is not completely empty, there’s a chance you could regurgitate while you’re under general anesthesia. If this happens, food or water could enter your lungs.
    • If you eat or drink within eight hours before surgery, the procedure will have to be canceled for your own safety.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
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Day of Surgery

A few final tasks will help you prepare for surgery under general anesthesia, and help everything go as smoothly as possible.

  • Do not wear any jewelry, makeup or contact lenses.
  • Wear loose, dark, comfortable clothing.

We’ll provide you with detailed pre-operative instructions before your surgery, and your surgeon and anesthesiologist will also give you instructions and recommendations. Following all of these instructions will help ensure your comfort, avoid complications, and speed your healing.

General Anesthesia
Side Effects

When you wake up in the recovery room after your surgery, you’ll likely have a sore throat. This is usually caused by the tube that was inserted into your mouth and throat to help you breathe during the procedure. You may also feel woozy and sleepy.

You’ll also probably feel cold because general anesthesia dilates the blood vessels in your skin, leading to heat loss. It is common for patients to feel sick or nauseated. Your doctor may administer medication to ease nausea. When you return home, don’t try to do too much too soon. It may take up to a week of rest before your body completely recovers from the effects of general anesthesia.