There's an eye surgeon in my running club and I told him I had general anaesthetic three times. He told me that's a lot. I've heard of people thinking general anaesthetic is bad, is there any scientific evidence? If it is dangerous, how often can it be used safely?

I found this article but it's not fully scientific (though one of the authors is a doctor)

When I ask if general anaesthetic is bad, I'm looking for long term side effects and not things that happen from lying down wrong or things related to the surgery itself.

  • 2
    Are you sure he was commenting on the anesthesia, or maybe he was just commenting on the number of surgeries you've undergone? Regardless, this is an interesting question. I hope we get some answers soon.
    – Dave Liu
    Nov 24, 2015 at 4:57
  • There are people out there who have had general anesthesia dozens and dozens of times so three times is not a lot by any measure. (I've had more than that.) I think @DaveL is right that he was commenting on the number of surgeries, not the anesthesia.
    – Carey Gregory
    Oct 18, 2016 at 18:46
  • I'm fine and I have been under over 4 dozen times in the last few years.
    – user8785
    Apr 4, 2017 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


I did some article browsing and here's what I found:

  1. Almost all of the articles I came across discussed the affect of general anesthesia on certain nerve tissues, ion channels, and receptors. I could not find a good overview or any peer reviewed articles covering the long-term clinical effects (what impact it actually has on the patient) of general anesthesia.
  2. Many of the studies are either in animals, in children, or in the elderly; not general population or a wide patient base.
  3. A general consensus seemed to be that the possible short term effects from anesthesia (malignant hyperthermia, hypotension, slowed respiratory rate) and the surgery itself lead to many more complications than any long term effects from general anesthesia.

I did stumble across one fairly broad article which discussed cognitive decline in the elderly after uncomplicated general anesthesia. The syndrome is called Post-operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD). The article didn't seem to consider how many times patients had undergone anesthesia in their lives, but focused more on receiving anesthesia at an old age (85 or older).

Lewis, M. C., and I. Nevo. "Uncomplicated General Anesthesia in the Elderly Results in Cognitive Decline: Does Cognitive Decline Predict Morbidity and Mortality?" Medical Hypothesis 68.3 (2007): 484-92. Science Direct. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

Here's another article that doesn't really answer your original question, but might be helpful nonetheless: General discussion TIME article

So I couldn't find any articles addressing your specific situation, but hopefully some of this info can help you draw your own conclusions, and maybe someone else will have better luck article searching than I did.

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