Dangerous Complications on Anaesthesia for Obese Individuals

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Anaesthesia has quite an ambiguous reputation among medical patients, regardless of what procedure. On one hand, patients do not want to feel any pain during the procedure, so anaesthesia needs to be administered. At the same time, many people still get worried due to the possible complications and side effects it might have.

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It is normal for people to think so, considering the number of anaesthesia horror stories from time to time. However, it should not hinder you from pursuing procedures that can improve your health or appearance. As long as you are in the hands of a skilled doctor and anaesthetist, you will be able to avoid the complications brought by anaesthesia.

It also doesn’t hurt to know more about the possible side effects of anaesthesia as it can put you more at ease. With that said, you can also look for alternative procedures that do not need to administer anaesthesia. For example, there are weight loss solutions out there that do not require surgery or anaesthesia. Regardless, knowing more information about anaesthesia can come in handy in the future.

Here are some of the basic things you need to know about anesthesia.

Four Types of Anaesthesia

To get a glimpse on their possible side effects, you need to know the use for each type of anaesthesia. Yes, there are different variants of anaesthesia, each with specific situations they’re suited for. There are four types of anaesthesia, namely:

Local Anaesthesia

Local anaesthesia is used to numb a small section of the body, whether injected through a needle or applied to the skin as a cream or spray. It may provide enough pain relief for smaller procedures. That’s why it is commonly used for minor procedures such as sewing deep cuts, filling dental cavities, cataract surgery, and skin biopsy. For some outpatient surgery, it can be used alongside sedation.

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A few small injections may be administered and the small area can feel completely numb. If any sensation is left, additional application can be given. In some cases, local anaesthesia can be injected after operation to provide relief during recovery.

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General Anaesthesia

General anaesthesia allows you to be temporarily unconscious, making you unaware and insensitive to pain or stimuli. Several medications can be used for general anaesthesia, though anesthetic gases or vapors are usually given through a breathing tube or a mask. With that said, you can work with your doctor and anesthesiologist to determine the medication that best suits you based on your health’s state, medical conditions, medications, allergies, and type of surgery.

During general anesthesia, your muscles relax, inducing you to temporarily sleep. However, it also paralyzes muscles that are responsible for breathing. As a result, a ventilator is usually required to assist your diaphragm to inhale and exhale air. Your vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure, are also monitored during this period.

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General anaesthesia is considered the strongest type of anaesthesia, making it suitable for more invasive surgical procedures such as knee replacements and heart surgeries. Medications are then used to reverse the effect of the anaesthesia during the recovery period.

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Regional Anaesthesia

Regional anaesthesia helps to numb a specific area of the patient’s body, but unlike local anaesthesia, it covers a larger part of the body. It uses a needle or via a flexible catheter line to administer the medication near the cluster of nerves to block the sensation.

With that said, only the operated area of the body will be numb and you are still awake. You may opt to undergo regional anaesthesia alongside sedation. However, for some procedures, the combination of regional and general anaesthesia is done.

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The various kinds of regional anesthesia depending on the area where the surgery will take place. Two of the common types include epidural (spinal block) and peripheral nerve block (in the shoulder, arm, back, or leg regions). That’s why it is used in specific procedures such as chichilbrith, cesarean section (C-section), a spinal for hip or knee surgery, or an arm block for hand surgery.

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Sedation is also commonly referred to as monitored anaesthesia care (MAC). Here, medication is given through an IV, making a patient feel drowsy and relaxed, but can be easily aroused or awakened. Unlike other types of anaesthesia, sedation does not make you chemically paralyzed, even though you’re highly sedated. Also, it does require assistance with breathing, though your vital signs are still closely monitored.

Different levels of sedation can be administered depending on the type of procedure and patient’s preference.

A patient is awake and can respond under mild sedation. It is commonly used for eye surgery. Under moderate sedation, the patient may doze off but can be awakened easily; that’s why it’s administered for cardiac catheterization and some colonoscopies. Lastly, deep sedation puts the patient in deep sleep -much like general anaesthesia-but it doesn’t require breathing assistance. It is often used for procedures like upper endoscopy or colonoscopy.

Side Effects of Anaesthesia

As mentioned, with the wrong use, anaesthesia can cause some complications. To set your expectations, here are the possible side effects of the different types of anaesthesia.

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Local Anaesthesia

Local anaesthesia is generally safe, making serious complications rare. However, if too much is administered or the injection goes into a vein, you may experience side effects such as :

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • twitching muscles
  • minor bruising, bleeding or soreness

With that said, they’re usually temporary, but let your healthcare professional know when you experience it.

In rare cases, it can cause major problems including:

  • allergic reaction
  • seizures
  • low blood pressure
  • slowed heart rate
  • breathing problems

General Anaesthesia

There are several possible side effects that come directly after the operation. Though not long-lasting, some people experience a few side effects like:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • sore throat
  • chills and shivering
  • temporary confusion and drowsiness
  • muscle aches 
  • itching
  • difficulty urinating
  • dizziness

Long term complications from general anaesthesia usually occur to older patients who undergo lengthy procedures. For some of these adults, administering it may lead to postoperative confusion, heart attack, pneumonia and stroke.

Regional Anaesthesia

As with any types of anaesthetics, regional anaesthesia may result in some side effects such as:

  • low blood pressure
  • itching
  • headache
  • allergic reaction

Regional anaesthesia is injected close to a bundle of nerves, which can cause more major complications. Nerve damage may lead to persistent numbness, weakness, or pain. In rare cases, the anaesthetic is absorbed through the bloodstream, increasing the risk of toxicity. Other serious side effects may include heart or lung problems, infection, swelling, and bruising.


Side effects of sedation usually go quickly, lasting for a few hours after the procedure. Some of these include:

  • headache
  • minor back pain
  • difficulty urinating
  • drowsiness
  • low blood pressure
  • feeling of heaviness
  • slow reflexes

Sedation also comes in varying levels. That’s why it’s important for your vitals to be monitored throughout the procedure. Otherwise, it may lead to more serious complications such as lung collapse and nerve damage.

Those are some of the side effects and complications that may arise from various types of anaesthesia. Again, as it’s a normal part of many medical procedures, there’s nothing to worry about as long as you’re in the right hands.

With that said, you need to do your part in preparing yourself to minimize the risk of side effects. For example, obese and overweight people are more susceptible to complications, as they are more likely to have underlying health issues that may hinder with the effect of the anaesthesia.

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Issues such as sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing repeatedly stops while asleep, may make it hard to monitor your vitals especially under general anaesthesia or heavy sedation. Furthermore, as mentioned, some anaesthetics can cause major heart or lung problems. As obese and overweight people are also linked to cardiovascular health issues and breathing problems, anaesthesia should be carfeully administered. Otherwise, it can lead to complications like heart attacks, stroke, and even death. Even within developed countries with great healthcare systems, like Singapore, cases of death due to anaesthetic mistakes still happen.

So, minimizing the risk of anaesthesia complications is a responsibility of you and your medical professional. It's about finding a doctor and clinic that will provide you an effective and safe medical experience. Also, for obese and overweight people, it helps to keep your weight in check, or even lose some, to avoid any problems.

With that said, if you want to avoid these complications completely, there are alternative solutions out there that do not need anaesthesia. For instance, instead of invasive bariatric surgery, people looking to lose weight can opt for a swallowable weight loss balloon that doesn’t require anaesthesia, to learn more about this balloon, click here. Regardless, it’s about doing your research to make sure you have an effective and safe medical experience.