Many of the world’s premier anesthesia specialists know that that anesthesia is both a miracle drug and a potential killer if not used correctly. Over the last fifty years, anesthesia has been used as the safest method to put people under during surgery. Before putting people under anesthesia, there were dubious methods to put people to sleep during surgery – methods that left people vulnerable to a number of complications. However, anesthesiology can also have its complications – especially when it comes to the drug’s effect on the heart. When it comes down to it, anesthesia can have a number of both positive and negative cardiovascular effects that must be taken into account before a major surgery.
- Irregular heart beats. One of the most common cardiovascular effects of anesthesia is that it can cause the heart to beat irregularly. This is called arrhythmia and it results from the heart trying to overcompensate for the slowing down of the heart muscles. Basically, your heart is working harder to pump blood, so it may skip or lose a beat here or there. Arrhythmia is considered normal during surgery, but it must be monitored.
- Improves contractions. During a heart surgery, spinal anesthesia has been used to actually improve heart contractions. Not only can this give your heart muscles more strength – it also gives you a greater likelihood that you will survive a major heart surgery. Some doctors recommend giving patients recovering from heart surgery regular doses of anesthesia during the recovery process. Doctors do this to ensure that the heart heals properly – but also so that pain and discomfort are decreased.
- Heart attack. Of course, anesthesia also has the risk to stop the heart or to cause a heart attack. This can be a serious side effect of the drug and doctors don’t often know who is more likely to suffer a heart attack during surgery. Usually, patients with enlarged hearts are more at risk. So are people with arrhythmia or other heart conditions. If you do suffer from one of these conditions, your surgeon will go over all of the risks.
- Lower blood pressure. Indeed, anesthesia can also lower blood pressure, which can be both a good thing and bad thing. Of course, if your blood pressure was already high, the drug may take it down. However, if your blood pressure was too low to begin with, you may start experiencing some dizziness and haziness. You may also experience shivering and nausea. Typically, a little rest and some water will help your blood pressure regulate itself.
- Slower heart rate. Anesthesia also has a tendency to slow down the heart rate. On top of causing irregular heartbeats, the heartbeat can literally slow down. This is normal, but if the heart rate becomes too slow, it can be dangerous. In most cases, monitors will alert doctors before the situation becomes critical. In the end, there is a low probability that a slow heart rate will result in a fatality.