Do Redheads Need More Anesthesia?

There are a few small studies suggesting that redheads may experience pain differently. The link between red hair and anesthesia is still being studied.

Studies have reported that:

  • Redheads need about 20% more anesthesia to be sedated
  • Redheads need more subcutaneous local anesthetics to be effective
  • Redheads are less sensitive to electric shock
  • Redheads are more sensitive to pain-killing analgesics such as opioids
  • Redheads easily detect changes in hot and cold temperatures

There is some evidence that the reason for this association lies in the Melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene. There are two types of human melanin: brownish-black eumelanin and reddish-yellow pheomelanin. The MC1R gene signals eumelanin to be produced. Redheads have a variant mutation of the MC1R gene where this signal is modified and less eumelanin is produced. Therefore, redheads have more pheomelanin than eumelanin.

It is thought that MC1R variant mutations are also involved in one’s response to pain and anesthesia.

It’s important to note that not all redheads have the MC1R gene variant mutation, and there should not be a universal assumption that all redheads have either higher tolerance for anesthesia or lower tolerance for opioids. Anesthesia is typically tailored to the individual based on a variety of factors, including age, weight, medical history, and the specific type of anesthesia used. Anesthesiologists take these and other factors into account when determining an anesthetic plan for an individual patient.

If you are a redhead and have concerns about anesthesia or require surgery, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your anesthesiologist. They can help determine the appropriate dosage of anesthesia and anesthesia plan for you and ensure that you receive safe and effective care.

Your Input is Important!

Please click here to submit a topic suggestion to the Guide