Does anesthesia have long-term health effects

SWR2 knowledge How dangerous is anesthesia?

During a banal cosmetic operation in early 2011, the bosom miracle "Sexy Cora" died. The public is shocked, after all, the incident took place in a normal Hamburg hospital. 23-year-old Cora was very healthy and the clinic was technically well equipped. In theory, this death should never have happened. But what use is the best technology in the event of human error?

Do you have to fear anesthesia?

The German Society for Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine recorded the figures: while around 10 million anesthetics are performed in Germany every year, from a purely statistical point of view, around 70 people die each year as a result of anesthesia. There is definitely a need for action. It is now clear where to start: with the human factor. Overwork, unclear processes and overconfidence on the part of doctors lead to most avoidable anesthetic disasters.

Anesthetists should practice on the anesthesia simulator

It would therefore be best to simply practice incidents and complications beforehand in a simulator. The University of Heidelberg has purchased such an anesthetic simulator.

In the training center for anesthetists, future anesthetists can make mistakes in the operating room. Of course only on an anesthetic dummy. The patient mannequin can speak and gasp when it runs out of air. After the simulation, the data is evaluated. In this way, the prospective doctors can also learn how to react if complications arise during the operation.

Today, anesthesia is a calculable risk

Better anesthesia technology, but also the open handling of errors, have resulted in everyone being able to assess the risks for themselves. Even on babies and the very old, it is now largely safe to operate. Interventions under anesthesia are increasing. But with the increasing number of operations, experts are becoming aware of unexpected problems in these high-risk patients. The effects of anesthetics can damage the brain.

Be careful when interpreting the studies

Warnings are circulating that operated infants could withhold anesthetic damage: a learning disability or brain damage are the possible consequences. Long-term observations after early childhood anesthesia should clarify this. The studies have already started, but the children's learning behavior can only be examined after five or eight years. So the results are still a long time coming.

Until then, the anesthetists should check more carefully whether an anesthetic is actually necessary for infants or small children. This care is also appropriate in the elderly. They also run the risk of anesthesia disrupting brain function. After an operation, many hallucinations initially occur.

Seniors should avoid postoperative delirium

Sometimes the episodes are short, but occasionally the condition lasts for days or weeks. Then one speaks of postoperative delirium. It's a brain dysfunction. The patients suffer from disorientation, restlessness, hallucinations or anxiety. The Sankt Franziskus Hospital in Münster is one of the first German clinics to specifically try to protect older patients from postoperative delirium. A short psychological test is already carried out upon admission to identify the risk. For those affected, local anesthesia is consistently sought instead of anesthesia. For example, a spinal anesthesia, in which only the lower half of the body is anesthetized. Sedatives and intensive care units are taboo.

Good preparation for the operation significantly reduces the risk

Up to 40 percent of elderly people used to develop delirium after surgery and anesthesia. In Münster this rate has been reduced to 10 percent. A huge success, not only for the patients, but also for the management. Fewer complications and thus shorter patient stays also have a positive effect on the clinic's financial situation.

Production 2015

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