Should The Covid-19 Vaccine Impact Your Surgery Schedule? — Dr Mohamad Fadhil Hadi

It is safe for patients to undergo surgery under local anaesthesia, even after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Malaysia has recently seen a surge in Covid-19 cases, contributed by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the disease. As the number of cases in the country continue to rise, vaccinations play a huge role in our march forward to achieve herd immunity as well as protecting individuals from acquiring further infections. 

Despite a slow start to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), Malaysia now boasts one of the fastest vaccination rates in the world, doling out up to 500,000 doses a day in July. 

Vaccines can protect the people from getting and spreading the virus, and from getting seriously ill in the event when one is infected. This is especially vital for those who have underlying health conditions and are vulnerable to the virus. 

One of the barriers in speeding up the vaccination programme were negative public opinion and misinformation about the vaccine, spread by anti-vaxxers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of serious adverse reactions from vaccination is much lower than the risk of serious disease, or even death, caused by Covid-19 infection. 

Here’s why:

  • Covid-19 vaccines were developed using scientific methods and research that have been around for decades.
  • Covid-19 vaccines have gone through all the required stages of clinical trials, extensive testing and monitoring that has verified the vaccines as safe and effective.

Are There Any Associated Surgery Risks After Getting The Covid-19 Vaccine? 

That said, we are also seeing a rise in myths associated with the administering of the vaccine. One of the most recent pieces of misinformation circulating online is regarding the risk of getting adverse reactions from anaesthesia, especially for those who are vaccinated.

This claim has been dismissed by the Malaysian Society of Anaesthesiologists and the College of Anaesthesiologists, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, and to date, there is no scientific evidence to validate the unfounded misinformation. 

It then becomes important for patients to have some understanding of anaesthesia. Anaesthesia is a treatment using drugs called anaesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during surgery or other medical procedures.

There are three main types of anaesthesia:

  • Local anaesthesia: Used to numb just a specific location of the body temporarily while the person stays fully awake.
  • Regional anaesthesia: Blocks sensations of pain from a large area of the body, for example, spinal and nerve block anaesthesia. 
  • General anaesthesia: Used to make a patient who undergoes surgery to be completely unconscious or “put to sleep” temporarily. General anaesthesia can be injected into a vein or inhaled.

As described, anaesthesia and the Covid-19 vaccine operate in two completely different systems, and as such, anaesthesia does not pose any effect to antibodies, the immune system or pose any reaction towards vaccines.

Hence, it is safe for patients to undergo surgery under local anaesthesia, even after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. 

At ALTY, in fact, we encourage our patients to complete their Covid-19 vaccination doses before their surgeries, as this will pose a minimal risk of infection to not just the patient themselves, but also health care workers in the hospital.

What You Should Do Before Going For Your Surgery

The type of anaesthesia used is usually determined by anaesthesiologists, depending on the type of procedure. They will determine the best course of action thorough investigation of vitals, and by making sure that the patient is medically fit before undergoing any procedure. 

It is best for patients to go for their pre-operative visit and consult with their doctor or anaesthesiologist, so they can schedule or plan for the elective surgery accordingly.

During this session, I encourage patients to share their medical history with their doctor, talk about previous their experiences with anaesthesia, and clarify any further questions that they might have. 

As an anaesthesiologist, I advise my patients to rest for a few days after they have completed their Covid-19 vaccination, if it is an elective case. This is because some patients may experience common side effects such as fever, muscle ache or nausea, post vaccination.

However, if it is an urgent case such as bone fracture or spinal injury, we would proceed to perform the procedure.  

In the face of uncertainties, people often turn to social media platforms for information. However, it is important to ensure that the information is obtained from trusted sources. 

You can always consult your doctor or meet a doctor through a telehealth service for medical advice, if you are still unsure or need more information. 

Rest assured, Malaysia operates an internationally lauded health care system, and was also ranked first as the world’s best in health care with its world-class services and sophisticated infrastructure, by International Living in 2019.

This should give patients further confidence in their health care professionals in Malaysia, as they strive to do their best to deliver a seamless patient experience.  

Dr Mohamad Fadhil Hadi is a consultant anaesthesiologist at ALTY Orthopedic Hospital.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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