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Anesthesia

Health Concern

03/05/2009

Question:

Is general anesthesia safe for someone who has Hepatitis C?

Answer:

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. In patients with acute hepatitis (the initial illness) surgery and anesthesia are, as a general rule, avoided except for emergencies.

In patients with chronic hepatitis of various sorts, including hepatitis C, those patient with severe impairment of the liver's function also tend not to do well with anesthesia and surgery.

Contemporary anesthetic agents are not a major concern for patients with mild liver disease; some of the older drugs no longer in routine use, such as halothane, were sometimes viewed as problematic in patients with liver conditions but this is no longer a major concern.

In patients with chronic hepatitis with minimal symptoms and reasonable liver function, general anesthesia should be reasonably safe. Tests would be needed preoperatively to assess liver function, particularly measurements of blood clotting (clotting factors are made in the liver). The medications you might be taking would need to be carefully reviewed. Care would be taken with anesthetic medications that are processed by the liver which might take longer to wear off.

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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