Medical Advice On Allergies To Anaesthetics


Table of Contents

What Is Anaesthesia And Why Might You Be Allergic

Unless you have undergone some form of surgical procedure that required the use of drugs to induce a state of anaesthesia, you won’t know if you are one of the unlucky people who might be allergic to anaesthetic products. But what is anaesthesia exactly, and who is qualified to give it to you?

Noun: anaesthesia (anesthesia US) pronounced “An-nest-he-sia”

Is an insensitivity to pain, especially as artificially induced by the administration of gases or the injection of drugs before surgical operations.

How Do Anaesthetics Work

Generally speaking, anaesthesia is medicine administered by a qualified physician called an anaesthesiologist. It is routinely delivered to the patient via a mask where the patient inhales the gas or as a liquid injected directly into an IV line placed in the vein. They will then ask you to count from ten to one. Most people don’t make it past seven before they succumb to the anaesthesia’s sedation.

How Anaesthesia Works Video:

While the anaesthesia is working, you will be unconscious, and many of your body’s functions will slow down or, in some cases, need assistance to work effectively. An intubation tube may be placed in your throat to help you breathe artificially while the surgery is being performed. During surgery or the procedure, the anaesthesiologist will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and other vital signs to ensure they are normal and steady. At the same time, you remain unconscious and free of pain for the duration of your surgical procedure.

What Do Anaesthetics Do To The Body

Anaesthesia temporarily blocks sensory nerve impulses and prevents pain signals from the nerve impulses from reaching the central brain. Your peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord to the rest of your body, and anaesthesia puts those nerves into a state of numbness, preventing them from speaking to each other to pass on messages to the brain.

Who Is Qualified To Give Anaesthesia

An anaesthesiologist is a licenced and highly qualified doctor who practises anaesthesia. Anaesthesiologists are physicians specialising in perioperative care, developing anaesthetic plans, and the administration of anaesthetics pre, during and if required for some reason post the operation.

Not every procedure requires an anaesthesiologist.

  • If you are undergoing a relatively simple procedure like a tooth extraction that requires only numbing a small area, the dentist performing your procedure can administer the local anaesthetic.
  • Your GP, Medic or Paramedic can also give you a local anaesthesia if you need sutures to a small area.
  • Someone giving young children their vaccinations might apply a topical anaesthesia to the skin before giving the child the injection to numb the area.

 However, for larger, complex, and invasive surgical procedures, your anaesthetic is required to be administered by a qualified anaesthesiologist. This medical doctor manages your pain before, during and after surgery. In addition to your anaesthesiologist, your anaesthesia team can be comprised of physicians in training (fellows or residents), a certified registered nurse anaesthetist (CRNA), or a certified anaesthesiologist assistant (CAA).

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What Are The Six Types Of Anaesthesia 

  • Local anaesthesia: This treatment numbs a small section of the body using a topical gel, ointment or lotion that sits on the skin and seeps under it to numb the area needing treatment for a short period of time. You are completely awake during the procedure.
  • Regional anaesthesia: Regional anaesthesia blocks pain in a larger part of your body, such as a limb or everything below your chest. You can be conscious during a regional procedure, or you may have sedation in addition to the regional anaesthetic if required. 
  • General anaesthesia: Renders you completely unconscious and insensitive to pain or other stimuli. General anaesthesia is used for more invasive surgical procedures where you need to be in a state of complete unconsciousness with zero movements.
  • Sedation: There are two forms of sedation.
  • Light sedation relaxes the patient to the point they will have a more natural sleep but can be easily aroused or awakened. It might be used when relocating a dislocated finger or shoulder joint, or for resetting the position of a fractured limb that will cause immense pain to the person without the aid of being temporarily knocked out for a short period of time. 
  • Deep sedation is provided by an anaesthesiologist because your diaphragm muscles and breathing may be affected by the stronger anaesthetic medications. Although you won’t be completely unconscious, you are not as likely to remember the procedure or feel any pain.

Types Of Anaesthesia Explained

General Anaesthesia

While there are many types and levels of anaesthesia, general anaesthesia is used for major surgical operations, such as knee and hip replacements, heart surgeries, and any type of invasive surgical procedure. Many of these surgeries are lifesaving or life-changing and would not be possible to execute without the assistance of a general anaesthesia.

Regional Anaesthesia

Regional anaesthesia is a type of pain management for surgery that isolates and numbs a large part of the body, such as a limb or from the waist down. The medication is delivered through injection via a catheter and is used when a local anaesthetic is not strong enough, or when the patient needs to be conscious. Examples of a regional anaesthetic at work are an epidural to ease the pain of childbirth, or during a caesarean section, a spinal fracture correction, for hip or knee surgery, or an arm block for hand surgery.

Spinal blocks and epidurals allow the doctor to surgically deliver the baby without causing pain to the mother, and without subjecting the baby to sedating drugs that might be harmful.

Local Anaesthesia

Many minor surgeries and medical procedures can be safely and painlessly performed while you are awake. Local anaesthesia is usually a one-time injection of medicine that numbs a small area of the body. It is used for procedures such as performing a biopsy, repairing a broken bone, suturing a deep cut or before giving an injection or inserting a cannula to establish an IV line directly into the vein. You will be awake and alert, and you may feel some pressure, but you won’t feel pain in the area being treated. 

Depending on the type of local anaesthesia used, the numbness may last for ten minutes up to three hours post the procedure.

When Is Local Anaesthesia Used

Local anaesthetics have made it possible to perform many surgical procedures quickly, with less preparation and a shorter recovery time. General anaesthesia and anaesthesia that sedates you can cause side effects such as nausea, Diaphragm suppression, post-surgery blackouts and unexpected side effects. The anaesthesiologist must monitor you pre, during, and post your operation for some time to ensure you do not have any adverse reactions. That is why hospitals won’t release a person from their care if they have no one at home to keep an eye on them up to 24 hours post-surgery.

The effects of anaesthesia can manifest hours after the operation and be entirely unexpected by the patient or the medical staff. Adverse reactions to anaesthesia are not as common these days as they once were, thanks to the types of anaesthetics on the market and the years of study and experience to understand their correct dosages, uses and side effects.

 However, side effects and complications are rare and usually minor with local anaesthesia. For example, you may experience some soreness where the medication was injected. In rare cases, you could have an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic and have an anaphylactic reaction that requires immediate emergency medical treatment and management.  

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How Is Anaesthesia Administered

Depending on the procedure being undertaken and the type of anaesthesia required, your anaesthesia can be delivered via several options:

  • Inhaled gas using a mask for delivery.
  • Injection, including direct injection into the wound site or intravenously (IV).
  • Topical application for use when you need to apply anaesthesia to the skin or eyes. Topical forms can be liquid, spray, gel or impregnated patch.

What If I Am Allergic To Anaesthesia

Even if you are allergic to some types of anaesthetics, your anaesthesiologist will have something you don’t react adversely to receiving. Common side effects of anaesthesia can include headache, pain at the injection site, nausea, and vomiting. Many of these risks are mitigated through the anaesthetic approach or the use of specific regional anaesthesia.

Can My Allergies Interfere With Anaesthesia

It is vital to inform your anaesthesiologist of any allergies you may have. Your providers need to know what you are allergic to so they can prescribe the correct medications, pain relief, and how to treat any allergic reactions should they present. Some people have allergies specifically to anaesthetic agents. Allergic reactions range from skin rashes, hives, breathing problems, and anaphylaxis to a very rare condition called malignant hyperthermia.

If you have an allergic reaction in the hospital, it can be treated. You won’t know if you are allergic to an anaesthetic product until after you have undergone the procedure. The medical team will correct the problem while the patient is under sedation and inform them when the operation has been completed once you are in the recovery area. Once you are aware of an allergy, always inform the medical staff treating you.

Your anaesthesiologist can often find safe, alternative ways of providing anaesthesia without using medications that may have caused problems in the past. Your anaesthesiologist may recommend preoperative testing by an allergist to confirm drug allergies for your safety. This option is often recommended if you have a family history of allergies to anaesthesia.

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