How have the risks of surgery changed over time?

Surgery has risks, but as anesthesia has improved over the years, as antibiotics have been used more judiciously and more effectively, and as pre- and postoperative care has been standardized, the outcomes have improved. Today, most people do just fine. It's important for surgeons always to explain the procedure to the patient, as well as how long the surgery will take and what to expect afterwards.

One of the biggest impacts to the risks of surgery over time has been the miracle of antibiotics. However, the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs means that this miracle will not last forever. Surgical technique, equipment and knowledge have all improved drastically over time, but the level of complexity of surgical procedures has also increased over time. There are new, complicated procedures being done that would not have been possible 10 years ago, but "complicated" tends to mean more risky. Advances like minimally invasive, image-guided and robotic surgeries can help mitigate some of that risk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.