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Anesthesia

Having anesthesia when you have asthma

08/04/2008

Question:

I have a four year old daughter with asthma who is going to have an eye operation. She will be put under anesthesia. I was wondering if there were big risks?

Answer:

Thanks for your question. Studies have shown that for patients with well-controlled asthma the risk of general anesthesia is very close to the risk of patients who don't have asthma at all.

A breathing tube is usually necessary for patients having eye surgery and the presence of this tube can occasionally start an asthma attack, or make an attack worse. During a properly conducted general anesthetic, however the risk of this happening is low.

The risk of breathing complications is increased if the person has a respiratory infection (cold, runny nose, bronchitis), and, obviously, if the asthma has worsened because of infection or for any other reason.

It sounds like this is an elective eye operation so you and your doctors can make sure that the asthma is as well controlled as possible before the procedure and that your daughter doesn't have an infection. It would be a good idea for your daughter to continue taking the asthma medications your daughter has been prescribed, up to and including the day of the surgery. If she uses a nebuliser or an inhaler device, it may also be a good idea for this to be used the morning of surgery (bring the device with you to the hospital). All such treatment decisions should however be made by you and your doctors, including, preferably, your anesthesiologist.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University