Anesthesia and plastic surgery

Anesthesia and plastic surgery

15th Oct 2020


If you are reading this, chances are you’ve already booked your plastic surgery procedure and are anxious to see the results. If you have chosen a board-certified plastic surgeon for the operation, you are in good hands. However, one of the most important things that you might be unsure of is the type of anesthesia to be used and what to expect as a result. Many people who plan cosmetic procedures are uncertain when it comes to anesthesia. In fact, most patients are more frightened of the anesthesia than the actual surgery.

No matter if you have undergone surgery in the past or are getting one for the first time, it is normal to have anxiety and worry about what will happen to you under the effects of anesthesia. To ease yourself, you should discuss with your plastic surgeon and have your concerns addressed. The surgeon is in a better position to explain the details to you and calm you down. In this article, I will discuss this topic in detail.

Anesthesia types for plastic surgery

To start with, you should know as to how many types of anesthesia exist for plastic surgery and under what conditions is each type used. Keep in mind that the choice of anesthesia depends on what plastic surgery procedure you are getting. If the surgery is highly invasive and entails more incisions, tissue removal, and discomforts, the surgeon will recommend doing the operation under general anesthesia. 

Keep in mind that the anesthesia used for one type of plastic surgery procedure may not always be suitable for another procedure. The three typical types of anesthesia used for plastic surgery are local anesthesia, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. Now let me explain each of the anesthesia in detail. 

Local anesthesia: Local anesthesia is used to numb a localized area of the body that is to be operated upon. This anesthesia is used for minor procedures that do not involve significant incisions and surgical trauma. Local anesthesia is introduced into the tissue under the skin in the area that has to be operated upon. If you are getting plastic surgery procedures to treat wrinkles and lines on the face, the surgeon will use local anesthesia. 

During liposuction, a tumescent solution is injected into the area that is being treated. The tumescent solution also contains local anesthesia, besides other medications. It is used to help dislodge the fat cells from the surrounding tissues. It also helps restrict bleeding during the procedure. 

While local anesthesia will make the body area numb and the patient will not feel much pain during the surgery, the patient will be awake throughout the operation. You will be fully aware of the operation under local anesthesia. The anesthesia will not calm your nerves, which is why oral medicines are also administered to the patient to keep calm during the surgery.

IV sedation: Intravenous sedation is a type of anesthesia during which the patient remains awake, but does not remember most of the surgery. Under IV sedation, you will breathe without any aid and may even sleep during the operation. In plastic surgery when IV sedation is used, it is mostly coupled with local anesthesia. Recovery with IV sedation is smooth, and the anesthesia does not cause complications or distress in most patients. Moreover, you are at lower risk of nausea and vomiting under IV sedation as compared to general anesthesia. 

General anesthesia: General anesthesia is used in plastic surgery procedures that involve more incisions, the use of foreign objects, and are traumatic. General anesthesia makes the patient entirely unconscious during the surgery, and the patient does not remember as to how the operation was performed. Also, you will not feel any pain and discomforts during the procedure. General anesthesia also keeps the patient from making any movements during the surgery. 

When your surgery is performed under general anesthesia, a breathing tube will be used to help you breathe. Like IV sedation, only a board-certified anesthesiologist must administer the general anesthesia. When you wake up, you will find yourself in a recovery area and even feel confused and exhausted for some time. You may also experience nausea and vomiting during the first 24 hours after the surgery with general anesthesia. 

What type of anesthesia is best for you?

The type of anesthesia best for you depends on what kind of procedure you are undergoing, how traumatic the surgery is, your medical history, and whether you have a history of anesthesia reaction. You must share your complete medical information with the plastic surgeon during the consultation session. If you are taking any medicines, be sure to bring it to the knowledge of the surgeon. Also, if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, your surgeon needs to be aware of it so that the right choice of anesthesia can be made for you. 

Some quick facts about anesthesia and plastic surgery

It is absolutely normal to be anxious and fearful about the anesthesia. However, understanding the facts about anesthesia and plastic surgery can help ease tension and make you calm. Keep in mind that overall, the mortality rates associated with the use of anesthesia during plastic surgery is meager. Local anesthesia and IV sedation are the safest forms of anesthesia. Below are some quick facts about the use of anesthesia is plastic surgery:

•    Serious complications resulting from the use of anesthesia during plastic surgery is extremely low. Even if you are in a medical emergency, have feeble health or are aged, you have only 0.01 to 0.016 percent chance of experiencing severe anesthesia complications. 

•    Despite being safe, the use of anesthesia is not free of risks. Your overall health, weight, a habit of smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, age, and pulmonary health will determine the level of anesthesia risks for you. 

•    More than 95 patients get plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes instead of medical reasons. As such, you must not take any risks if your plastic surgeon tells you that you are at higher risk of anesthesia complication during plastic surgery.  

Major plastic surgery procedures are done under general anesthesia

General anesthesia is common in plastic surgery. Most major plastic surgery procedures like breast augmentation, butt augmentation, tummy tuck, hourglass surgery, and Mommy makeover are done under general anesthesia. 

The anesthesiologist and plastic surgeon will discuss with you the process of anesthesia administration before the procedure. They will tell you whether they will administer general anesthesia via IV drip or injection. Majority of patients who underwent plastic surgery under general anesthesia reported that it was a surreal experience. They did not remember what happened during the surgery and didn’t experience any discomforts during the operation. 

After the general anesthesia is administered, the medicine will enter your bloodstream, and the effect will start immediately. The anesthesiologist will then monitor your health under anesthesia while the surgeon performs the procedure.

Side effects and risks of general anesthesia

Like all medicines, there are side effects associated with the use of general anesthesia. While some people don’t experience any side effects, most patients do experience some side effects. The side effects are short-lived and happen mostly during the first 24 hours after the surgery. 

The common side effects of general anesthesia include confusion and memory loss for some time after the surgery, especially when you are aged. Some patients may feel dizzy while others may have difficulty urinating. Bruising and soreness due to the use of the IV drip are common.

Many patients experience nausea and vomiting for many hours after the surgery. This is a discomforting but temporary side effect of general anesthesia. Some patients may even feel cold and have a sore throat. All of these side effects are temporary. 

Overall, the use of general anesthesia is safe. More than 90 percent of patients experience no risks, but it is not free of risks. The rare risks associated with general anesthesia include heart attack, stroke, and pneumonia. These risks are higher for patients suffering from serious health complications and have a poor lifestyle, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea. Furthermore, patients with problems of the lungs, blood, and kidneys or having habits like smoking and alcohol will be exposed to more anesthesia risks. 


Plastic surgery procedures involve incisions; sometimes tiny and others large. Like any procedure that involves incisions, plastic surgery entails discomforts, side effects, and surgical trauma. For this reason, plastic surgery is done under anesthesia. 

Three types of anesthesia are used in plastic surgery: local anesthesia, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. I have explained these types of anesthesia in this article. Furthermore, I have discussed the importance of anesthesia, why it is used, how they are administered, and what are the risks and side effects of anesthesia. As a patient, you must discuss the anesthesia with the plastic surgeon before the surgery and share your complete medical information with him. 

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