Are you a cannabis user? Are you planning on going under the knife in the near future? Tell your anesthesiologist because it might just have an effect on your surgery and/or recovery.
A recent small-scale preliminary study suggested that cannabis users may require up to twice as much anesthesia as non-users for endoscopic procedures. For the U.S. study, medical records from 250 patients were reviewed.
The study’s results have prompted lead author Mark Twardowski, as well as anesthesiologists, nurses and surgeons, to question how cannabis consumption can affect surgical patients’ response to sedation, anesthesia, and aftercare.
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists has recently made changes to its policies and guidelines surrounding patients who use substances such as cannabis – and they encourage medical professionals to keep an open, honest dialogue with patients regarding their consumption. The new guidelines emphasize doctor-patient collaboration and a non-stigmatized approach to substance use.
“Substance use disorder patients do not pose an absolute contraindication to treatment with controlled such as anesthetics and opioids, however, precautions should be taken to mitigate or avoid exposure to these substances to prevent relapse,” read the new guidelines. “Collaboration with the patient, their addiction professional and the interdisciplinary healthcare team is critical to continuity of recovery while managing their pain and maintaining sobriety.”
Patients who consume cannabis may require more sedation, which can lead to increased complications, and heavy smokers of the drug may experience respiratory irritation or limited airflow while sedated.
Cannabis can also affect recovery; some patients use cannabis to minimize the use of opioid painkillers, whereas others may find that mixing cannabis with post-op prescriptions can lead to increased or unexpected side effects.
Although the stigma that still surrounds cannabis can be a deterrent for patients in disclosing their consumption, it is vital to have these discussions with your physician well before you end up on the operating table – especially until further research on cannabis and surgery is completed.
It might be awkward, but it still beats waking up on the operating table.
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Written by Emma Spears