Interesting Facts About Anesthesia

Each year, millions of Americans safely and successfully undergo procedures while under a form of anesthesia. While it is extremely common to require anesthesia for a surgery, most patients don’t really know much about the anesthetic itself. As we approach the 170th anniversary of the first successful use of a form of anesthesia, here are four interesting facts about anesthesia you may not have known.

Before Anesthesia, Patients were Told to “Bite the bullet.”

This popular phrase has meaning that dates back to a time before there was anesthesia. A wounded patient, often a soldier, would be told to “bite the bullet” while enduring painful surgery without anesthetic. Aside from bullets, patients were often given sticks, leather straps, and other objects to clench between their jaw during painful procedures. As you can imagine, this was not a very good alternative to anesthesia, and we are very thankful so much has changed!

Anesthesia Causes Temporary Amnesia

Anesthesia activates memory-loss receptors in the brain, which ensures the patient has no memory of the surgery. Some look at the effects of anesthesia as just being “put to sleep”, but this really is not the case considering if it was just sleep, the patient would be awakened by the extreme pain their body is experiencing. The effects of anesthesia can be more closely related to a reversible coma than to a deep sleep.

Smokers May Need Higher Doses of Anesthesia than Nonsmokers

Smokers, as well as people who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, may require more anesthesia than the average non-smoker. A study monitored a group of women all undergoing the same surgery. The results of the study showed the women who were smokers required 33% more anesthesia, and women exposed to secondhand smoke required 20% more. John Reynolds, MD, an associate professor at Wake Forest University, says smokers have irritated airways, and as a result, they may need higher doses of pain medication to improve their tolerance with the breathing tubes.

Redheads May Sometimes Require More Anesthesia

Due to a gene that causes their red hair, redheads sometimes require 20% more anesthesia than the average patient. This gene is known as the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) and responsible for the bodies pigment. The MC1R gene is also connected to hormones that stimulate pain receptors in the brain. The gene can sometimes overproduce a pain-related hormone, which may make redheads more sensitive to pain, in turn causing them to require more anesthesia.

While anesthesia has been around for some time and has become extremely common in the world of medicine, there is still a lot of interesting facts about anesthesia that many people do not know. We hope you enjoyed learning some interesting facts about anesthesia and, if it peaked your curiosity in learning more about anesthesia, CLICK HERE for some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers from Steel City Anesthesia.