Anaesthesia and surgery

Could an operation trigger an MS relapse?

If you need to have surgery or anaesthesia, you may be concerned about whether they could affect your MS. Your surgeon needs to know that you have MS before an operation, but for most people with MS, surgery itself holds no extra risks compared to the rest of the population. A recent study of 281 patients undergoing surgery found no increase in the risk of having a relapse in the 3 months following an operation.

It is possible that being stressed or anxious could trigger a relapse, or make your MS symptoms worse. Anecdotally, recovering from surgery can also exacerbate MS symptoms, particularly fatigue. If you are worried about an upcoming operation, do talk about your fears with your MS team, and find ways to calm your nerves and get enough rest beforehand.

After an operation, allow plenty of time to recover. It may take you longer to fully recover than a person without MS. You may need to book more time off work, or make sure you have enough support with chores, meals and childcare in the weeks after an operation.

Are anaesthetics safe for people with MS?

Studies have not found any connection between anaesthesia and an increased risk of relapse or a worsening of multiple sclerosis symptoms. As a result, for the majority of people with MS, there is no need to avoid anaesthesia when required, including spinal or epidural anaesthesia during childbirth.

The potential exception is people with severe, advanced MS, who may be seriously weakened or have respiratory problems that would put them at greater risk for anaesthetic complications.

Find out more

Hedström AK, et al.
Exposure to anaesthetic agents does not affect multiple sclerosis risk.
Eur J Neurol. 2013 May;20(5):735-9
Summary (link is external)
Makris A, et al.
Multiple sclerosis: basic knowledge and new insights in perioperative management.
J Anesth. 2014 Apr;28(2):267-78.
Summary (link is external)
Sahin L, et al.
Anaesthesia for patients with multiple sclerosis.
Ann Chir Gynaecol. 1984;73(5):299-303.
Summary (link is external)
Stuart M, Bergstrom L.
Pregnancy and multiple sclerosis.
Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health 2011;56(1):41-47.
Summary (link is external)
De Lott LB, Zerada S et al.
Multiple sclerosis relapse risk in the postoperative period: Effects of invasive surgery and anesthesia
Multiple Sclerosis Journal, June 25, 2019
Summary (link is external)
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