Can Anesthesia Cause Hair Loss?
Anesthesia is commonly used when patients have to undergo a variety of surgeries, saving doctors the hassle of having to deal with a conscious patient and patients the hassle of the pain that comes with being awake during surgery. Unfortunately, while not proven outright, anesthesia can potentially be a cause of temporary or even permanent hair loss in some patients.
Anesthesia is indirectly related to two processes that can lead to hair loss – pressure alopecia and telogen effluvium. In the case of pressure alopecia, prolonged pressure over part of the scalp during a procedure can lead to localized loss of hair. Oftentimes this happens after very long procedures, or ones such as heart surgery when a heart-lung machine is used, diverting some blood flow from the scalp and effectively stunting growth. This diversion of blood flow, in combination with anesthesia, disrupts cell division, leading to hair thinning following the surgery.
Telogen effluvium is hair loss that is caused by acute stress to the body, such as acute illnesses and surgery. Chronic illnesses, pregnancy, and even major diet and lifestyle changes can lead to telogen effluvium hair loss. While surgeries for many conditions that may lead to telogen effluvium require anesthesia, the anesthesia itself is often not the cause of the hair loss, but the stress of the condition and surgery itself. Patients often misattribute the anesthesia to hair loss, though there is no conclusive evidence that this is the case in the vast majority of cases.
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