Safety First - Anaesthesia safety
Jodi Thiessen talks to Sydney cosmetic plastic surgeon Dr Darryl Hodgkinson about how patients should take care of their own safety by asking questions about their doctor’s qualifications, the surgery centre and the anaesthesia used.
Because cosmetic surgery is now relatively safe and predictable many people have become relaxed about safety precautions.
A lot of emphasis is placed on trusting your surgeon to give you the results you expect. This means many patients find out about their surgeon’s qualifications and neglect to find out about the anaesthesia or the accreditation of the surgery rooms.
These areas are easy to overlook because anaesthesia is far too technical to understand (thank goodness all anaesthetists are doctors and medically trained specialists) and the facilities for having surgical procedures vary.
Put simply however there are ways you can safeguard your safety.
Anaesthesia – ask what type of anaesthesia will be used for your procedure and find out as much about it as you can. Dr Hodgkinson prefers to use general anaesthesia for larger procedures because he said under general anaesthesia the airways are controlled and an anaesthetist helps the patient to breathe during the operation.
Day Surgery Centres – ask whether the centre you are having your procedure in is accredited or licensed. All facilities administering general anaesthetic should be licensed by the State Board of Health. Day surgery centres must go through a rigorous accreditation process before they can become licensed. "These guidelines allow the patient to have the security that they are in the least likely circumstances to actually get a complication," said Dr Hodgkinson. "There’s really no other way to give the patients the security as there are no office surgery standards in Australia."
Trust is vital, but only give it after much research and don’t be afraid to ask questions – your surgeon cares about your safety as much as you.
An area that patients don’t know much about is anaesthesia. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the different types and many patients have unfounded fears, particularly about general anaesthesia. Here are the basic types explained:
Local anaesthetic is just as it sounds – an injection is given at the site of surgery or the nerves near the site so the nerves are non-functional for the duration of the procedure.
A local anaesthetic allows minor procedures to be performed with no discomfort to the patient.
Twilight sedation is not a term used by anaesthetists. It makes the patient sleepy during the procedure and a local anaesthetic is used in combination.
Patients are able to respond through-out the operation, however most report they have no memory of events afterwards.
General anaesthesia is the most controlled form of anaesthesia. The patient is completely asleep and breathing is monitored and controlled by a specialist anaesthetist. Often a local anaesthetic is used as well to lessen post-operative discomfort.
Contrary to popular belief, local anaesthetic alone can be dangerous just as general anaesthetic can be. However when used and monitored correctly, both have a very low rate of risk. While patients often fear general anaesthesia, in fact, statistically Australia is the safest country in the world to have a general anaesthetic. Dr Hodgkinson, along with many other cosmetic surgeons, believe a specialist anaesthetist should always be present to administer any type of anaesthetic to ensure the safety of the patient.