British Medical Journal reports on the dreaded redheaded surgical patient

January 25, 2011

British Medical Journal reports on the dreaded redheaded surgical patient
British Medical Journal reports on the dreaded redheaded surgical patient

There’s an old saying, “If you want trouble, find yourself a redhead.” This is especially true among doctors who claim that redheaded surgical patients have excessive bleeding, a reduced pain threshold and an increased tendency to develop hernias. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently published results of a scientific literature survey that searched the terms “red hair,” “pain” and “surgery” to find out what, if anything
makes redheads unique surgical candidates. Time Magazine, December 2010, reports on this survey.

Redheads are a minority. They make up 2% to 6% of the population of the northern hemisphere and 1% to 2% worldwide. They are unique because of their genetic structure and the culprit is the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) protein, which causes pale skin, light eyes and sensitivity to ultraviolet light.

Redheads may need more than extra sunscreen; the survey showed that they may have different reactions to anesthesia, needing more lidocaine but less opiate-based analgesia.

Redheads were also more sensitive to the perception of pain from cold and heat than the control group. Time reports that “One study, which used heat-related pain as its litmus of overall sensitivity showed that redheads indeed felt things more acutely and unpleasantly, probably because the MC1R mutation releases a hormone that stimulates a brain receptor associated with pain regulation.”

In relation to hernias the study said “red hair may be associated with increased rates of hernia formation, but in all honesty it would be difficult to prove.” The belief that redheads are more susceptible to hemorrhages was not substantiated. When blood coagulation was measured in 50 women, half of whom were redheads, there was no difference in clotting between the redheads and the control group.

Although redheads may sometimes need more or less anesthesia, depending on what is being administered, redheads pose no greater operative risk than others. In so many words, BMJ advises physicians of the folly of using a patient’s red hair to explain problematic bleeding or recurrent hernias.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

Search by location (Zip, City, or Country)

Related Articles

Plastic lips to get rid of wrinkles?

September 25, 2013 - Remember those wax lips you used to chew on when you were a kid? Well, they seem to have inspired the latest fad in the anti-aging realm.

Illegal buttock injections are more common than you think

September 19, 2013 - How many times have you read a story about illegal plastic surgery in the news?

Yet another anti-wrinkle cream faces lawsuit

September 17, 2013 - It seems to be almost cyclical - every few months, a brand new, game-changing anti-wrinkle cream is introduced to the market, only to face lawsuits due to suggestions that the "scientific" claims made on the side of the bottle are absolute bunk.

Study: If you've got wrinkles, thank Mom

September 12, 2013 - Have you ever wondered why some people get wrinkles at a young age and others don't?

Latest Articles

Plastic lips to get rid of wrinkles?

September 25, 2013 - Remember those wax lips you used to chew on when you were a kid? Well, they seem to have inspired the latest fad in the anti-aging realm.

Illegal buttock injections are more common than you think

September 19, 2013 - How many times have you read a story about illegal plastic surgery in the news?

Yet another anti-wrinkle cream faces lawsuit

September 17, 2013 - It seems to be almost cyclical - every few months, a brand new, game-changing anti-wrinkle cream is introduced to the market, only to face lawsuits due to suggestions that the "scientific" claims made on the side of the bottle are absolute bunk.

Study: If you've got wrinkles, thank Mom

September 12, 2013 - Have you ever wondered why some people get wrinkles at a young age and others don't?

About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

WE ARE AESTHETICS.

Website: www.surgery.org
Follow ASAPS on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ASAPS
Become a fan of ASAPS on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AestheticSociety
Join Smart Beauty Guide: www.smartbeautyguide.com
Locate a plastic surgeon in your area:  http://www.surgery.org/consumers/find-a-plastic-surgeon

Copyright © 2009-2012 ASAPS. All Rights Reserved.