General anesthesia in cosmetic surgery—is it safe?

Pope Plastic Surgery Center - ASPS Member Surgeon

Over the past year or so, I’ve had more and more patients ask me if I’m willing to perform cosmetic surgery using local anesthesia.

Somehow, the perception that general anesthesia is dangerous is growing, even though it’s not true.

I typically prefer general anesthesia for my patients, but I welcome the opportunity to discuss it and put the patient’s mind at ease.

General anesthesia, when done on healthy patients by qualified providers in a properly equipped facility, is exceptionally safe.

We go to great lengths to make sure each of our patients is a good candidate for general anesthesia. This is the most important step.

Next, our patients have a board certified anesthesiology physician at their side throughout the procedure. This is the gold standard, and what I would want for my own family.

I want my patients to be relaxed and comfortable, so I can devote my full attention to the surgery.

Our surgical center, OASIS, is fully accredited and equipped with the latest technology, so if an emergency occurs, we are prepared.

When I read about patients who die during cosmetic surgery, I can often guess the circumstances: a doctor who is not board certified in plastic surgery, no board certified anesthesiologist present, and under-qualified support staff, a non-accredited facility, and possibly a patient who was never a good risk for surgery in the first place.

Cosmetic surgery is surgery first and foremost. In my opinion it should never be performed by doctors who aren’t plastic surgeons.

Sometimes these doctors will recommend a procedure that can be done under local anesthesia, because that’s all they can offer, even knowing it will not give you the result you’re looking for.

For example, if you need a tummy tuck, liposuction will not give you the result you want. You’ll have less abdominal fat, but you’ll still have excess skin and separated muscles.

If a doctor only offers local anesthesia, ask why.

You want to know that the doctor is a board certified plastic surgeon with privileges at the local hospitals, with extensive experience in the procedure you’re considering.

You also need to make sure the facility is fully accredited by a legitimate organization, like the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, (AAAASF).

So, am I willing to perform cosmetic surgery using local anesthesia?

Sometimes, if the procedure is brief and I’m convinced the patient can be made comfortable.

But it’s never a decision I would make because of fear of the safety of general anesthesia.

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