Anesthetic anxiety

I have spent days on this site searching breast reduction, healing, post op......I am by nature someone who always needs to be in control. I am terrified, anxious about going under GA. I am 5 weeks away and I'm already not sleeping, obsessed about not waking up. What I don't understand is why an intelligent person as myself can't rest in the knowledge that GA is safer than some of the driving I do. Instead of walking into the OR, can I just be put out with a sedative prior?

Doctor Answers 5

I'm a control freak too

I completely understand your situation and I applaud you that at least you can objectify your anxiety- sometimes patients cannot even see that GA is safer than driving.  That said, I recommend you discuss this with your surgeon and the anesthesia provider.  Sometimes patients do require some pre-operative medicine but you want to make sure that your anesthesia provider is involved in recommending any particular medications that you take pre-operatively.  There is also the issue of signing any consents the day of surgery, and you may need to get that done earlier so that you are not "under the influence" when you need to be giving consent to something.

In my practice, we treat patients differently depending on their needs.  Some patients get medicated first, some don't, but either way should not be a problem.

Best wishes!

Dr. L

Breast reduction: Anxiety about general anesthesia

Anesthesia anxiety is normal and reasonable. I routinely prescribe Valium for my patients so they have the option, if desired, to help them get some sleep the night before. They can also take one Valium, with a small sip of water, before heading to the hospital. Check with your surgeon what his/her protocol might be regarding this option. Good luck to you. For more information on this and similar topics, I recommend a plastic surgery Q&A book like "The Scoop On Breasts: A Plastic Surgeon Busts the Myths."

Ted Eisenberg, DO, FACOS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Anxiety before surgery

You are not alone in being anxious before surgery. This is quite common. Talk with your surgeon and anesthesiologist, perhaps they can prescribe something that you can take prior to surgery to relax you.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Anesthetic anxiety

Your concern is more common than you imagine. We drive, we fly, we play sports and yet many people are more nervous about GA where statistically the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor.

IMO a patient who is a bit nervous is a better patient and more likely to  follow postoperative instructions. It means you are hearing  your doctor.

Conversely, If you are just too nervous- you don't have to do it. never feel pressured. The desire has to be yours alone and one that you are comfortable with.

I will sometimes offer sedation to patients who are anxious before surgery, but only when we have had our talk preoperatively and all our paperwork is filled out. Ask your PS about this.

Best wishes whatever you choose.


Adam Tattelbaum, MD
Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

Breast reduction and Anesthesia anxiety

Congratulations on your decision to proceed with breast reduction surgery; it is one of the most patient pleasing operations we perform.

Anxiety prior to surgery is very normal; its complete elimination is usually not possible. Assuming you have chosen your plastic surgeon carefully, other important "variables" such as anesthesia provider and surgery facility will be selected based on everyone's first priority: safety. This careful selection should give you some peace of mind that you will be safe around the time of surgery. Discuss your specific areas of concerns with your plastic surgeon who will be in the best position to help you calm your nerves. The use of preoperative sedation is a possibility, depending on the plastic surgeon's and/or institution's practice.



I ask my patients to try to be as calm as possible prior to surgery; this “calmness" tends to translate to a smoother postoperative course. You may be able to alleviate some pre operative anxiety with music, exercise, meditation, a glass of wine (if ok with your surgeon), and positive/objective focus on the long term outcome/benefits etc. prior to your procedure.


Generally, patients find that they did “get worked up for nothing” after their recovery is completed.

I hope this helps. 

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.