Since I am an Anesthesiologist by profession, I thought this week I’d share with you an often unknown bit of information related to the field. Chances are, you have had anesthesia in the past or will receive it in 2014.

Your previous experience with anesthesia may have involved ‘mild’ sedation for a colonoscopy to a full general anesthetic for an appendectomy, cosmetic surgery, or a coronary artery bypass.  Your anesthesiologist would have taken a history and physical and one of the questions they would have asked you was something along these lines:  “Is there a history of personal or family anesthetic problems or neuromuscular disorders that you’re aware of?”

The answer to this simple inquiry into your or your family’s history is extremely important to the Anesthesiologist!

There is a rare genetic mutation that some people carry that makes them susceptible to a syndrome called Malignant Hyperthermia (MH). Certain anesthetic agents can trigger the syndrome which causes severe skeletal muscle contractions and a hypermetabolic state.

The incidence of Malignant Hyperthermia is approximately 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 100,000 anesthetics and the incidence is more common in adults than children. In the U.S., there are approximately 600 cases per year and about 1-2% of those result in death.

A patient’s MH episode is one of the least expected and most feared crises in an anesthesiologists career and hence the reason why patients should always be asked about their anesthetic history. If a patient gives the Anesthesiologist a family history positive for an MH episode, safe steps can be taken to avert a problem.  Certain anesthetics can be avoided. There is even testing for MH susceptibility which includes a muscle contracture test and/or molecular genetics.

If you would like to know more about Malignant Hyperthermia, there is a Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States – MHAUS. Their website is There is a top tab for “Patient” and then a box to “Learn more about MH.”       

I hope you all enjoyed this anesthetic pearl!

Feel free to leave comments. Sign up for new posts to my blog.  For more health pearls, check out my book “Younger Next Decade” on my website or at


West African Peanut Soup

Here’s this week’s recipe, West African Peanut Soup, which I found last week in a local utility magazine. The editor cited it as her all-time favorite soup recipe which she acquired from a Chattanooga restaurant which no longer exists.  I don’t have the nutritional information for it, but it’s chock-full of healthy ingredients and makes a wonderful dinner meat substitute since its protein comes from peanut butter. I made it this week to ‘test’ it. Not only was it delicious and as unique as it sounds, but the flavors are enhanced a day or two later!

West African Peanut Soup

Make this in a great big old-family (soup) pot if you can!

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely diced

2 large green peppers, finely chopped

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice

8 cups vegetable or chicken broth

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ cup uncooked rice

1 (18-ounce) jar creamy peanut butter

Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

Heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Cook onion, bell pepper and garlic until lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes with juice, broth, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Add rice to soup; stir.Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until rice is tender.  When rice is cooked, whisk in peanut butter, return to a simmer and serve.Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts. Makes about 8 servings.



How Important is Your Anesthetic History? by Barbara Ebel, M.D.


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