Ask Dr. Dubbink: How Safe Is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia has become much safer over the last 25 years. Dr. Doug Dubbink explains how advances have improved patient safety.

middle age man reading tablet about anesthesia safety

As the lead anesthesiologist at Summit Orthopedics, Dr. Doug Dubbink sees his share of nervous patients. “The prospect of anesthesia is unnerving for some patients,” says Dr. Dubbink. “When I talk with a patient who is really concerned, I like to point out that Summit uses two approaches shown to significantly improve anesthesia safety.”

A seasoned team contributes to patient safety.

At Summit surgery centers, a subspecialty anesthesia team carefully monitors patients throughout their entire procedure. “Training and specialized experience matter,” explains Dr. Dubbink. “I came to Summit with 25 years of training and experience to work with specialized orthopedic surgical teams. During surgery, our entire team constantly monitors the patient. This enables us to identify and address any potential concerns before they become problems.”

A multimodal approach to pain treatment reduces risks.

Historically, opiates have been used to treat pain. These drugs control pain—but their side effects are concerning. “Opioid addiction is a huge topic right now,” acknowledges Dr. Dubbink. “We’ve even lost talented celebrities and musicians to opioid misuse. It’s such a shame and such a waste.”

Summit Orthopedics is a leader in limiting the use of opiates to treat pain, and this approach is reflected in Summit’s surgical protocols. “We manage pain through multimodal analgesia,” explains Dr. Dubbink. “That means that we are using several different kinds of non-narcotic and narcotic medicines—each working on a different pathway—to address pain. Our approach reduces reliance on narcotics. In the ambulatory arena, I prefer to minimize narcotics; I’d use no narcotics if I could. Since they have unpleasant side effects like nausea and constipation, many people don’t like being on them. We haven’t eliminated use of narcotics yet, but medical advances give us more—and safer—options than we once had.”

An anesthesia approach designed to increase patient safety.

“It’s true that there is a certain statistical risk with anesthesia—just as there is a risk when you drive on an icy highway,” says Dr. Dubbink. “But it’s important to remember that major reactions to anesthesia are rare. In Minnesota, we know that there will be more accidents in slippery conditions. Those ‘accidents’ with anesthesia do occur, but they don’t happen very often.”

“Anesthesia has become much safer over the last 25 years,” Dr. Dubbink continues. “Our Summit surgical protocols are designed to limit our use of narcotics, and address pain needs with blocks and multiple intravenous medicines that work on several different pathways. Our goal is to deliver excellent patient outcomes in a surgical setting designed to keep our patients safe and comfortable.”

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  • Douglas A. Dubbink, M.D.

    “My goal is to improve my patient’s surgical experience. I strive to provide calm gentle reassurance for patients who are anxious about anesthesia and ensure that every patient is skillfully cared for throughout their entire procedure. When a patient awakens after surgery and openly wonders why they were so nervous previously, I know I’ve done my job.”

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