Effects of Anesthesia on the Heart

Anesthetics are medications specifically designed to manage pain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. General anesthesia is commonly produced by a combination of anesthetics including intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses.

General anesthesia induces deep sleep and is often used during surgery. The patient's vital signs are carefully monitored while under this type of anesthesia.

Instead of general anesthesia, regional anesthesia is sometimes used to anesthetize large parts of the body such the arms and legs.

This form of anesthesia does not induce deep sleep; however, regional anesthesia can cause sleepiness. Although generally considered safe, anesthesia use may involve some measure of risk, and may have effects on the heart.


General anesthesia can cause heart beats to become irregular, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Irregular heart beats are also known as arrhythmia. This condition is usually occurs because the flow of blood is insufficient to meet the body’s needs, causing the heart rate to become irregular as the heart adjusts to compensate.

However, the interaction between anesthesia and other medications may affect the regularity of heart rate, explains the Patient Education Institute website. As such, it is vital to disclose any medication or condition that may interact with anesthesia and consequently affect heart rate, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Improve Cardiac Function and Pain Management

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The use of a form of regional anesthesia known as spinal anesthesia may improve heart function, notes ClinicalTrials.gov. Current data indicates that spinal anesthesia can lower hypertension and increase the contractions of heart muscles. This effect is observed when spinal anesthesia is used in tandem with general anesthesia. The continued use of spinal anesthesia after heart surgery may reduce pain experienced in the heart area.

Myocardial Infarction

Anesthesia may cause myocardial infarction, notes the Patient Education Institute website. This effect is not considered common. Anesthesia-induced heart attacks typically occur in those that have pre-existing heart conditions or a history of heart attacks. Disclosing medical history or heart conditions prior to surgery can help anesthesiologists take the necessary precautions to further lower the risk of myocardial infarction.

Tachycardia and Lower Blood Pressure

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Anesthesia can cause blood pressure to drop considerably, such as during an allergic reaction, notes the Patient Education Institute website. The drop in blood pressure causes the heart to beat faster, a condition known as tachycardia, to compensate for the reduced pressure. The increased heart rate and dropping blood pressure can have serious repercussions if not alleviated and stabilized.