Most in-depth surgical procedures require some form of anesthetic for comfort and patient relaxation so that the surgeon can concentrate on the work at hand. The recent interest in “natural” processes has given the public a false sense that “sedation” anesthesia is more conducive to the normal state of being and that breathing for one’s own is safer than general anesthesia. The problem lies in the definition of sedation which literally runs the gamut of local anesthesia with oral analgesic to IV continuous injection of central nervous system depressants that can reduce or even stop our mid-brain spontaneous breathing. The problem is that it is difficult if not impossible to tell exactly where on this wide spectrum we call “sedation” a patient lies. Without airway control people can get into trouble not breathing requiring emergency measures to obtain airway control to breathe for the patient. There have been examples of this situation in the news with dire consequences.
General anesthesia is sedation with an airway tube in place to prevent such emergencies. General anesthesia is the safest form of patient control as my father used to tell me (he was an anesthesiologist). People are under the impression that anesthesia is dangerous when in fact it provides more safety. No one undergoes any procedure without risk but the risk has to be compared with life experiences. The incidence of a serious problem with anesthesia is 0.4/100000 procedures.
The incidence of death from scuba diving is 7x higher, football 5x, canoeing 25x, bicycle riding 17x, car driving/riding 27x, airplane flying 3x, and even dancing 2x higher than anesthesia! (Information from Best Health Degrees and multiple medical and graduate journals)
We take the risks of other activities for granted since they occur more often in our lives and are therefore more familiar. It’s important to keep a perspective on all that we do.