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Is General Anesthesia Safe for People With High Blood Pressure?

Updated February 21, 2017

High blood pressure is a serious medical condition and can lead to complications during medical treatment, including problems with general anaesthesia.

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High Blood Pressure Health Risks

Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to numerous complications, including heart disease, kidney problems and stroke. The leading cause of high blood pressure is obesity.

Anaesthesia Challenges

High blood pressure increases the risks of many medical procedures, including general anaesthesia. "Death or serious illness or injury due solely to anaesthesia is rare and is usually also related to complications from the surgery. Death occurs in about 1 in 250,000 people receiving general anaesthesia, although risks are greater for those people with serious medical conditions," according to WebMD.com. In simpler terms, general anaesthesia may increase an already-high blood pressure and lead to a heart attack, aneurysm or stroke, among other problems.

Physicians Can Manage Risks

Before you worry excessively about high blood pressure leading to serious complications during general anaesthesia, consider that there will always be a team of medical professionals, including an anaesthesiologist, who specialises in administering and monitoring the patient's reaction to anaesthesia, during such surgeries. The loss of life due to general anaesthesia is extremely rare.

Doctors Minimize Risks

The medical team will monitor your high blood pressure not only during the days leading up to the operation but also during the administration of the anesthetic medicines in order to minimise risks. Countermeasures can be taken both prior to and during the operation. It is generally easy to reduce a patient's blood pressure during a brief period of time, such as a surgery, and modern medical equipment will warn doctors well before the patient's condition deteriorates to dangerous levels.

Serious Complications Are Rare

While high blood pressure does make the administration of general anaesthesia slightly harder to manage, millions of patients with high blood pressure undergo surgeries requiring general anaesthesia every year. The safety record of the medical profession in such cases is nearly flawless, as evidenced by the numbers. So, do your best to bring down your high blood pressure but if you must undergo general anaesthesia with high blood pressure, do not worry needlessly.

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About the Author

Hunkar Ozyasar is the former high-yield bond strategist for Deutsche Bank. He has been quoted in publications including "Financial Times" and the "Wall Street Journal." His book, "When Time Management Fails," is published in 12 countries while Ozyasar’s finance articles are featured on Nikkei, Japan’s premier financial news service. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Kellogg Graduate School.

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