Health Advice



How to be safer in the operating room

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

Forty to 50 million surgeries are performed in the U.S. annually, and most involve some form of anesthesia: general anesthesia (you're out), intravenous-monitored sedation (you don't feel pain but aren't totally asleep), local anesthesia (numbs a specific area) and regional anesthesia (numbs a larger area).

People get nervous about "going under," but it's important to know that while in the 1960s and 1970s, one in 10,000 or 20,000 surgery patients would die from issues related to anesthesia, now it's very rare, something like one in every 200,000 patients.

Nonetheless, these days it may be time to pay more attention to how your anesthesiologist (I'm board certified as one) is attending to your procedure. A study in JAMA Surgery looked at data from more than 570,000 surgical cases in the U.S. from 2010 to 2017. The researchers found that there are instances when anesthesiologists are assigned three or four overlapping surgeries and the complication and death rate in those surgeries is 14% greater than in surgeries where the case load is limited to one or two procedures.

While anesthesia is safer than ever, the researchers suggest that if you're having a high-risk surgery or are a medically complex patient, make sure to ask ahead of time about your anesthesia teams' care processes. If it doesn't suit you, ask for a full explanation of how your surgery is made as safe as possible, discuss alternatives with your surgeon or inquire about other surgical settings where you can get one-on-one care from an anesthesiologist.



Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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