The findings of a new study suggests that side effects of general anesthesia (GA) may include an increased risk of health problems for stroke patients undergoing surgical procedures to remove blood clots, leading researchers to conclude that general anesthesia should be avoided “whenever possible.”
Researchers from Australia and Europe published a study in the January 2018 edition of The Lancet Neurology medical journal, which raises questions about the possible general anesthesia risks during a procedure known as endovascular thrombectomy. They conducted the study after it was noted that worse patient outcomes were seen when general anesthesia was used.
The procedure is used to treat ischemic stroke patients with large blood clots and involves the surgical removal of those blood clots. For the study, researchers looked at data on seven previous clinical trials involving 1,764 patients. The researchers looked at the outcomes of patients who underwent endovascular thrombectomy with general anesthesia, and those who underwent the procedure without general anesthesia.
General anesthesia renders a patient completely unconscious and unable to feel pain for a medical procedure. It is usually achieved with a combination of anesthetic gas and intravenous drugs. It requires a trained anesthesiologist to apply the anesthetics and to monitor the patient’s vital signs and breathing.
According to the findings, outcomes were 53% better for the patients who did not receive general anesthesia than those who did. In both cases, endovascular thrombectomy resulted in better outcomes than standard care, regardless of the use of general anesthesia, the researchers noted.
“Worse outcomes after endovascular thrombectomy were associated with GA, after adjustment for baseline prognostic variables,” the researchers concluded. “These data support avoidance of GA whenever possible.”
Researchers noted that patients receiving general anesthesia tended to be younger, and there was a shorter delay between the stroke and the procedure than those patients who did not receive general anesthesia.