What are the most common side effects of general anesthesia?

A headache can be a side effect of general anesthesia.

General anesthesia is used for most major surgeries and has a very low rate of serious side effects. It carries more risks than local or regional anesthesia, but the side effects are usually minor and pass quickly. A person who has received general anesthesia may experience a headache, nausea, and tiredness, but these problems are usually temporary. Serious problems such as allergic reactions, breathing problems, or strokes rarely occur.

temporary side effects

A patient receiving general gas anesthesia.

Some of the possible side effects of general anesthesia are caused by mechanical damage to the body caused by the breathing tube that the anesthetist may place in the throat and airway to help the patient breathe while unconscious. Insertion and removal of the tube can cause injury or irritation to the throat and larynx, and often leaves the throat very painful and dry. Hoarseness, coughing, and muscle spasms in the larynx or bronchi may occur but are uncommon. In rare cases, teeth or other parts of the mouth and throat can be damaged when the device is inserted; a loose tooth can be pulled out, for example.

Tiredness may occur after surgery that involves general anesthesia.

An increase in blood pressure and heart rate are also common side effects of general anesthesia, but they usually do not cause lasting complications. There may be bruising where an intravenous (IV) line has been inserted along with muscle pain. Many people are tired and confused when they wake up, which can lead to coordination problems or even aggression if the person doesn’t know where they are. these usually pass within 10 or 15 minutes, although a general feeling of tiredness may last longer.

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The increase in heart rate is a sign that the patient under anesthesia may be waking up.

Among the most common problems after the patient wakes up from general anesthesia are headaches, nausea and vomiting. Patients are often asked to fast before surgery, which leaves an empty stomach and makes vomiting less likely. A medical professional can also provide anti-nausea medication.

Tremors are also a very common side effect that occurs in about 40% of patients. This is partly due to the heat loss that often occurs in cold operating rooms, but it can also be a direct result of anesthesia – the body temperature thermostat is reset during general anesthesia, allowing it to tolerate the colder temperatures. When a patient wakes up, the body’s thermostat returns to normal and may react to a persistently low body temperature with chills.

serious side effects

Vomiting can be a side effect of general anesthesia.

Serious side effects from general anesthesia and complications during surgery are rare but possible. Allergic reactions, infections and lung problems can occur. Heart problems and stroke are unlikely, but they are also potential risks, and a condition called malignant hyperthermia, in which the patient develops a dangerously high fever, is also a possibility. Waking up during surgery, called perception of anesthesia, can also happen, but it only occurs in about 1 in 14,000 cases. The chance of dying after receiving general anesthesia is about 1 in 250,000, although this is rarely due to anesthesia alone.

During surgery, the anesthesiologist will pay close attention to the patient’s breathing, heart rate, and other vital signs. Anesthesiologists are trained to detect allergic reactions and other serious side effects of general anesthesia and can react quickly to treat any of them.

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Although very rare, some serious side effects of general anesthesia can occur within a time span of two weeks after surgery. Some patients may experience pale or yellowish skin or eyes, or unexplained body pain. Severe headaches, nausea, or weakness may also occur. Vomiting or black or bloody stools or unexplained weight loss are also indicators of a serious reaction. Anyone who experiences one or more of these side effects after undergoing general anesthesia should see a doctor or emergency room.

Risk factors

Many factors, including the patient’s age and current health, influence how the patient will respond to general anesthesia. Heart, lung, circulatory and nerve disorders can increase the risk of problems. Medical history, drug or food allergies, and previous reactions to anesthesia are important risk factors that the patient should discuss with the surgeon or anesthesiologist. In some cases, there may be less dangerous forms of anesthesia that can be used on people at high risk.

Patients should also tell the surgeon and anesthesiologist which prescription medications, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs they are taking. The use of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal substances can also affect the risks of anesthesia, so these should also be discussed prior to the operation taking place. People who use opiates or cocaine may be more likely to experience anesthesia awareness, for example.

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