The first surgical procedure with general anesthesia was not performed until the mid-1800s. Until then, pain relief was a scattershot affair, managed with alcohol, makeshift numbing agents and screams of horror.

In 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) was founded by physician-anesthesiologists. Anesthesiologists, whose main focus is to relieve pain while managing vital life functions, have helped advance their specialty to a level of near perfection. The chance of a healthy patient dying from an anesthesia-related cause during surgery is less than one in 200,000. However, it’s important to be as healthy as possible before surgery.

Take it from the experts

The ASA recommends that patients take several critical steps to ensure the best possible outcomes, including requesting a physician-anesthesiologist to deliver anesthesia, not eating or drinking the night before surgery, quitting smoking before surgery, making arrangements to be taken home after surgery, informing the anesthesiologist about all medications they’re taking and wearing loose-fitting clothing.

Leonard Grossman, M.D., a NYC-based plastic and reconstruction surgeon, cautions that undergoing surgery is a stressful event and that optimizing your overall health is the best approach.

The ASA recommends that patients take several critical steps to ensure best possible outcomes, including not eating or drinking the night before surgery, wearing loose-fitting clothing and making arrangements to be taken home after surgery.

1. Ask your surgeon what type of anesthesia you will be receiving.

If possible, request propofol instead of general anesthesia. It is non-addictive and does not interfere with protective reflexes, such as breathing, sneezing and coughing. There are times, however, when general anesthesia is necessary.

2. Ask for an optimal temperature to support comfort.

When undergoing general anesthesia, you want to avoid becoming too cold or too hot. Be sure to find out if the hospital has cooling gear, or a warming blanket.

3. Consume a high-protein diet starting two weeks before surgery.

Protein is the most important macronutrient for healing.  Make sure your diet leading up to the surgery includes plenty of lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds.

4. Take vitamin K starting two to three weeks before surgery to decrease bleeding.

Vitamin K binds with calcium ions in your blood to initiate clotting.  Taking vitamin K as part of your pre-surgery routine can help to reduce excessive blood loss during the procedure.

5. Ask your surgeon about clonidine.

Clonidine is a first-generation blood pressure medication. Taken two hours before going under the knife, it relaxes a patient before surgery, diminishes adrenaline and makes the anesthesia process easier. It can be used in any type of surgery.

6. Use a chlorhexidine scrub three days before surgery to kill body surface bacteria.

Chlorhexidine scrub exhibits a wide range of antimicrobial activity and can help to reduce the incidence of infection.