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Prolonged Anesthesia Risks
August 2003

Q. I am 52 years old. I am going to have breast surgery and reconstruction soon. My HMO has plastic surgeons who can do a bilateral mastectomy with immediate deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) reconstruction in 12-18 hours. An outside physician can do the same surgery in 6-8 hours. Can you tell me the risks involved in being under anesthesia for 12-18 hours versus 6-8 hours?

A. You are scheduled for a lengthy procedure in any case. Of course I do not know all the details of your condition, but several factors influence safety concerns. Your general health, especially heart and lung condition is primary, and of course the condition for which surgery is required.

The skill and experience of the various doctors involved is obviously key, so all of these influence safety in addition to the time requirement. I would encourage you to discuss with the two possible doctor groups the details of the surgery and why the time estimates are different. You can certainly ask about their experience and results with cases similar to your own. All this information should help you make the choices that best fit your situation.



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