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Anesthesia

Odds of Dying From Anesthesia Allergy

05/21/2008

Question:

Alright, so I`m going in for a surgery next Tuesday and I`m paranoid because I`ve heard that there`s a very small chance you can die from allergic reactions. Even if its a small chance its still a chance and I`m just wondering what are the odds of it happening if both parents have had anestesia, 4 grandparents, and 1 sister have all had it without any allergic reaction?

Answer:

The term allergy is often misused, and applied to almost any reaction to any form of medication. Here I am going to assume you are using the term correctly, meaning "an acquired, abnormal immune response to a substance that can cause a broad range of inflammatory reactions."

I don't mean to alarm you but there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a hospital, a lot of things that can go wrong during an operation, and a lot of things that can go wrong with anesthesia. The good news is allergic reactions to anesthesia are among the least likely things to harm you. The fact that none of your relatives has had that type of problem is reassuring but not a guarantee.

Finally, allergic reactions, if recognised early and treated appropriately almost always have a good outcome.

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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