Recently I had a patient develop general anesthesia respiratory complications after an aesthetic procedure. As part of our intake procedure, we asked her questions regarding her history including recent illnesses and history of smoking. Unfortunately, I did not understand her true  respiratory risk.

The patient stated that she was getting over a sinus infection, which was hardly worse than a cold. Her family doctor had put her on antibiotics and she had been on them for 10 days.  On the day of surgery she did not feel bad – was afebile, breathing easily. Two days later she was in the hospital with pneumonia.

As her surgeon, I was very unhappy that she did not completely share how sick she had really been. I consider it my fault that we continued with a surgery that ultimately ended with general anesthesia respiratory complications.

Over the years I have witnessed that patients are anxious to have a surgery completed and they lose perspective on what is most important. General anesthesia can worsen an existing lung infection, and in fact, I believe, compromise your immune system leading to respiratory failure.

Although we all lead busy lives and understand the difficulty with rearranging a scheduled surgery, please tell your surgeon if you are sick so that we can provide you with the level of care you deserve.