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Anesthesia

Asthma

10/25/2010

Question:

Can anesthesia cause asthma, or a ventilator after the surgery?

Answer:

General anesthesia does not cause asthma. However some patients with severe asthma may get worse. If you are to have elective (non-emergency surgery) and have asthma, it is important to have the asthma brought under good control. This makes the risk of any worsening much less likely.

As you know, for many forms of major surgery, a ventilator is used. At the end of the procedure, as the anesthesia is withdrawn most people are able to breathe on their own.

In patients who have asthma and need emergency life-saving surgery it may be important to go ahead even if the asthma is not perfecty controlled, accept the risk and deal with the consequences, which could include the worsening of breathing to the point where the person has to stay on the ventilator for a time after surgery.

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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