Perspectives

Operations: spinal versus general anaesthetics— a patient's view

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1606 (Published 23 December 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1606
  1. Vivien Stern ([email protected]), solicitor
  1. 30 Goldhurst Terrace, London NW6 3HU

“Operations are fine, so long as you have the right attitude to them,” a good friend told me. “Just treat them as a great adventure.” And how should one maximise the adventure aspect of the operation? Stay awake while it is done.

I do, however, have some serious points to make about surgery. Firstly, an operation is an opportunity to get better, and more emphasis needs to be placed on this; secondly, doctors may sometimes be overprotective; and thirdly, an operation is a major event in one's life, but it can be treated as either a trauma or an adventure. Which it turns out to be may depend largely on the attitude of those professionals taking care of the patient (and those taking care of me had the right attitude).

I have had spinal anaesthesia twice now, once last year for a minor leg operation, and recently for a myomectomy. At the end of the operation, my surgeon made a comment about my colour, that I looked “all pink and happy.” “I am happy,” I replied. This was true: I genuinely was, and remain so. Here's why.

I had seven fibroids, five of them measuring between 13 and 44 mm, the sixth the size of “an apple,” and the biggest the size of “a baby's head.” I fully understood that this would be a very difficult operation, and that life would be a lot simpler for the surgeon if I were prepared to have a hysterectomy, which I was not (for no “logical” reason whatsoever as I am well past childbearing age). Also I had been offered, but declined (for various reasons), a course of injections to shrink the fibroids before the operation.

I also understood that the surgeon might find it impossible to perform the myomectomy and might be …

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