Different types of anesthesia used in plastic surgery

Different types of anesthesia used in plastic surgery

11th Dec 2017

Even if plastic surgery is a medical procedure, it is beyond the scope of conventional health care. Cosmetic surgery is different from reconstructive surgery from which it originated and its aim is to beautify and rejuvenate the patient.

This medicine specialty should never be considered a banal consumer service and should always be performed by authorized, experienced and board-certified practitioners. To be able to prevent certain abuses, the plastic surgeon’s role has become more and more complex over time.

The trivialization of aesthetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is not a simple service. A plastic surgery is not the same as changing your hairstyle because it brings long lasting or permanent results. The proliferation of some aesthetic criteria imposed by the modern day standards or the desired to be identified as part of a group are some of the reasons for the increased demand in plastic surgery. However, this doesn’t mean that the patient should reflect long and hard on the real need to undergo surgery. Acquiring all the information about the consequences and risks of a specific procedure from the plastic surgeon is essential before taking the next step towards improving your body.

A cosmetic surgery involves physical or mental consequences. The surgeon is responsible for his actions and must refrain from performing the surgery if:

• The health status of the patient is not good.

• The patient is experiencing a delicate psychological context; the initial issue or discomfort is likely to remain after surgery, even if successful, because the real cause was not treated.

• Patient is suffering from addiction to plastic surgery: has a history of repeated surgeries with no medical or legitimate reason

• Excessive demands, unrealistic dreams (wanting to look like a certain actor or actress etc.)

• The patient has a dysmorphic image of himself.

• There are no serious reasons behind the requests for plastic surgery.

• There is a request of several surgeries within a short interval from the same patient.

The health of the patients should come first every time, and this is something to be kept in mind by both the patient and the plastic surgeon performing the procedure. There are certain so-called doctors that are willing to perform surgery in any condition and on all patients, even if they are not suitable for surgery. When having your surgery performed by someone who is not experienced and board-certified, the risks are increased exponentially, whatever the plastic surgery might be. There are no “easy” interventions when it comes to plastic surgery, as all operations are performed under anesthesia, and this in itself entails certain risks and potential complications.

Different types of anesthesia used in plastic surgery

Cosmetic surgery helps a patient achieve self-acceptance by correcting a flaw or a complex that is preventing the individual to enjoy life to the fullest. With well-founded indications performed proficiently, it allows the patient to find a physical or psychological comfort that shouldn’t be denied.

To be able to perform a surgical procedure, whether for cosmetic purposes or not, it is essential to desensitize the area to be treated. To help the surgeon decide upon the type of anesthesia to be used, he will take into consideration a number of factors such as the nature and duration of the procedure, the patient’s tolerance to pain, his health, and psychological condition. Following a thorough assessment, the most suitable type of anesthesia will be recommended.

Local anesthesia

There are 3 forms of anesthesia: local, regional, and general.

Local anesthesia is the easiest to use and indicated for mild surgical procedures. Its purpose is to desensitize the skin surface using injections of different drugs, most often lidocaine. Sometimes, to mitigate the sensitivity for the injection, the doctor might apply ice packs on the area.

Local anesthesia can be combined with the administration of sedatives intended to numb the senses without losing consciousness. This type of anesthesia is particularly effective and is probably the most often practiced in cosmetic surgery, especially for rhinoplasty, otoplasty, liposuction and certain types of facelifts.

Regional anesthesia

Meanwhile, regional anesthesia aims to inject the anesthetic around the base of the nerves, numbing a certain region of the body. Regional anesthesia includes spinal anesthesia (epidural) and is often chosen when performing liposuction in the thighs, knees and love handles.

General anesthesia

General anesthesia is recommended to be used for all complex and major plastic surgeries. The patient is put into a state of unconsciousness with an intravenous injection using a mix of drugs. The patient is then immersed in a temporary and controlled sleep. The anesthesiologist also puts a mask on the patient’s face containing a soporific gas combined with oxygen. The patient is connected to devices measuring the life signs for full control of the state at all stages of the procedure. For long surgeries, the doctor can insert a tube in the windpipe (intubation), passing through the mouth to allow direct access for ventilation (breathing).

Considering the tremendous progress of medicine, general anesthesia now allows perfect control of the patient’s sleep. Performed every day on thousands of people all around the world, it has a very low mortality and complications are very rare.


In the United States, the plastic surgery sector is private and the supervision of cosmetic surgery is not strict. This may, in some cases, lead to abuses.

Even if a so-called doctor will tell you that your procedure can easily be performed in a hotel room, keep in mind that every plastic surgery procedure needs to be performed while the patient is under the effect of the anesthesia. The anesthesia itself is associated with certain risks of complications.

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