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Common Problems Patients Face in the Hospital

Understand your hospital risks and ask these vital questions -- to keep those risks in check.

Hospital Risk No. 6: Anesthesia Complications

While many patients still worry about anesthesia, experts say that it's really quite safe these days. "There's no doubt that the biggest advances in improving surgical safety have been in anesthesiology," Clancy tells WebMD. "They've made enormous strides."

But while the risk of problems is now low, there are still precautions you should take. First, ask to meet with your anesthesiology team to discuss your options. Some only need a local or regional anesthetic, while others will need full general anesthetic. Go over the benefits and risks of each one.

Although rare, some people have allergies to certain anesthetics. Rare genetic conditions can also trigger anesthesia complications. "It's always worthwhile to check and see if any other family members have had a bad reaction to anesthesia," Clancy says. If you suspect you might be at risk, you may have testing done before the surgery.

Speaking Up Lowers Hospital Risks

When you're in the hospital, it's very easy to feel intimidated. While you lie in bed, groggy and disheveled in a sweaty johnny-coat, you may feel pretty powerless compared to the brisk, lab-coated doctors who appear at your bedside. What could your puny opinion matter to all these experts? It may be tempting to give up control, to lie back and just hope that your doctors and nurses will remember everything.

But you should never give up responsibility for your own health. The advice from all the experts is to pay attention and ask questions.

"In the old days, good patients were the ones who didn't make any noise and were grateful," says Clancy. "It turns out that those patients don't do so well. The ones who do well are the ones who ask questions."

So to lower your hospital risks, you have to be an active and involved patient. Not only will it give you a feeling of control over your situation, but it may even improve your care. If you're too dazed after surgery to pay attention, your family members should be asking questions on your behalf.

"Questioning authority is never easy," says Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and safety policy at the American Hospital Association in Chicago. "But remember it's your body, your health, and your life. If you ever have questions or concerns about anything during your hospital stay, you have to speak up."

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Reviewed on March 03, 2009

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