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Dangerous anesthesia: deaths after anesthesia increased slightly
While the number of deaths after anesthesia continued to decrease until the end of the 20th century, the latest surveys show a slight increase in death rates after anesthesia.
In the 1940s, around 640 out of a million anesthetic patients died annually as a result of anesthesia. However, due to higher safety standards and better education, the death rate dropped to only four out of a million patients by the end of the 1980s. Now, however, the "Deutsches Ärzteblatt" has published an investigation which has shown that the global death rate after anesthesia has risen from four to seven out of a million anesthesia patients in recent years.
Increased deaths in the following year of anesthesia In addition to the increase in the death rate immediately after anesthesia, the number of deaths one year after an operation under general anesthesia was also alarmingly high, reports the "Deutsche Ärzteblatt". As a result, around every twentieth patient dies in the following year after anesthesia. In patients over the age of 65, even one in ten does not survive the following year. The experts cite the growing proportion of older patients who have to be operated on with a variety of previous diseases as a reason. For people who are already weakened, anesthesia can pose a considerable health risk. Anesthesia due to surgery can, for example, become a serious problem in 80-year-old patients who may have already had a heart attack or suffer from blood pressure problems. Because "anesthesia and surgery mean stress for the body", emphasized study author André Gottschalk in the "German Medical Journal". It is still a rarity that “a patient dies during an operation, but in patients with severe previous illnesses, post-traumatic stress can lead to death after an extended operation,” Gottschalk explained.
Severe drop in blood pressure during anesthesia The possible problems in the context of anesthesia are varied and strongly dependent on the basic health condition of the patients, the experts report. In general, modern anesthesia today comprises several steps that are initiated chronologically one after the other. To put it simply, the patient is given a strong pain reliever beforehand, followed by a highly effective sleep aid such as propofol, which puts the person in a trance-like state and finally an active ingredient that switches off the patient's ability to move by transmitting the signals from the brain to the movement muscles is interrupted. Relatively high doses are usually required to induce anesthesia, which often causes the patient's blood pressure to drop sharply. At this point, however, every body reacts differently and not always as expected, reports the study author André Gottschalk. Gottschalk explained that, for example, “it is sometimes difficult to estimate the correct dosage of anesthetic in overweight patients because the adipose tissue does not require anesthetic medication. However, this can cause an overdose, which in turn can lead to a sharp drop in blood pressure, the study author emphasized.
Do not underestimate the risks of anesthesia Even if massive advances have been made in modern anesthesia since its introduction in the 19th century, doctors and patients should always be aware of the risks and should not underestimate them, the experts warn. Because the rise in the death rate and the number of deaths in the following year after anesthesia paint a worrying picture. However, the fine-tuned system of modern anesthesia has become indispensable in conventional medicine today, because many interventions would "simply not be possible" if the patient was not relieved of the pain, Michael Sander, deputy director of the Clinic for Anesthesiology at Charité explained to " World Online ”. For example, particularly painful interventions were carried out in ancient times by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans under the anesthetic of the patients, using, for example, poppy seeds, henbane or alcohol as a pain or anesthetic. (fp)
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