If you’re like most people planning plastic surgery, you arrived at the decision after plenty of thought and research. This means you’ve probably considered what type of anesthesia is appropriate for you.

We recently discussed general anesthesia where the patient is completely asleep and unaware during surgery. Today let’s dig into local anesthesia for plastic surgery procedures.

Local anesthesia simply means that only the area that will have the procedure is numbed and the patient is awake. This is achieved with multiple small injections to the surgical site prior to the start of surgery. The medications used often end in -caine, such as benzocaine and lidocaine.

Even though these injections block pain, many patients are anxious about undergoing surgery. This is why intravenous (IV) sedation is commonly used in conjunction with local anesthesia. IV sedation allows the patient to feel relaxed and comfortable while the local anesthesia blocks pain from the procedure.

This is a safer alternative to general anesthesia because it doesn’t paralyze the patient, meaning the patient doesn’t need mechanical ventilation to breathe. It also requires fewer medications, so the effects wear off more quickly once the procedure has ended. Patients who have had local anesthesia with IV sedation typically walk out of the procedure on their own the same day after a short recovery period.

Local anesthesia is considered safe for many different types of plastic surgery. The decision to use local or general anesthesia must take into account the patient’s health status, history of reactions to the drugs used in either type of anesthesia, the height, age and weight of the patient, and the procedure itself. It requires years of training to assess these factors and make the safest choice for the individual patient’s needs.

Risks Associated with Local Anesthesia in Plastic Surgery

There aren’t many risks with local anesthesia, but if a patient has a sensitivity to the drug beyond the norm or is allergic, there can be adverse reactions. For this reason, a patient will be monitored closely so appropriate steps can be taken if trouble arises.

A potentially bigger concern is the qualifications of the person performing the procedure. Since local anesthesia allows procedures to be performed in an office setting, practitioners don’t need to have privileges to operate in hospitals or surgery centers. Most facilities require certification from appropriate boards, such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery, but this isn’t required for physicians to perform in-office procedures.

This doesn’t mean in-office procedures are generally unsafe, but it does make it important that you know what credentials your surgeon has and that they are appropriate for the procedure you have chosen.

Local anesthesia or general anesthesia can be safe choices for most patients. It is important that patients consult with a qualified plastic surgeon so the choices that will lead to the best outcome can be made.

Dr. Slack is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you would like to discuss any questions you have about plastic surgery with him, please schedule an appointment in his Allen, TX office. He looks forward to meeting you.