Sadly, there is nothing that a physician can do to a patient that does not carry an element of risk or potential complication. Nowhere is this truer than with surgery of any type, but particularly a surgery that requires the patient to have anesthesia. Often times the surgical risk is compounded by the anesthetic risk.
When patients have an underlying illness that may pose an increased risk during surgery or immediately after, physicians familiar with the patient’s disease are often asked to perform a risk assessment and decide the level of risk for related complications such as pulmonary problems.
Sometimes the surgical request is to have another physician “clear the patient for surgery”. This task, in reality, cannot be done. The decision for any surgery rests with the surgeon and the patient. Other physicians may provide opinions regarding certain risks, but the decision for the surgery is made by the surgeon and patient.
Occasionally, patients and family members are frustrated because of opinions that suggest the patient may be at high risk for intra and post-op complications, making the surgeon less enthusiastic to proceed with the surgery. Providing the maximum safety for the patient during a procedure is extremely important. The medical dictum “primum non nocere” (above all do no harm) applies in many of these cases. It does not mean that a procedure cannot be performed, but the surgeon and the patient need to be aware and accept the risks.