10 Possible Side Effects of General Anesthesia You Need to Know

Anesthesia is a medication for surgical patients that produces a temporary, artificial state of consciousness or loss of physical sensation. Anesthesia is helpful during medical procedures… Denis Courtney - January 29, 2017

Anesthesia is a medication for surgical patients that produces a temporary, artificial state of consciousness or loss of physical sensation. Anesthesia is helpful during medical procedures like surgery, tooth extraction or other painful medical procedures. It is necessary when people are having an operation, because of the potential for extreme pain and discomfort. People may even die if they undergo major surgery without anesthesia. That is why doctors must administer anesthesia for many medical procedures.

What are the Types of Anesthesia?

The medical specialist who administers anesthesia is called an anesthesiologist. There are three main types of anesthesia:

  • Local: This is local numbing of a small area.
  • Regional: This causes half of the body to become numb and paralyzed for a certain amount of time.
  • General: This creates a complete loss of consciousness.

What type of anesthesia a doctor decides on depends on what the issue is and what procedure the patient will have. Anesthesia is given to a patient via inhalation or intravenously.

When people have a severe accident and parts of their bodies are badly damaged, anesthesia is helpful. Medical personnel oftentimes administer it before they can deliver treatment for any other issues because it diminishes pain instantly and it makes your body relax more.

Another use for anesthesia is for mothers who have difficulty delivering their baby. The doctor may resort to performing a cesarean section where they surgically remove the baby from the womb. Often in these situations, anesthesia numbs the lower half of the mother’s body, so she can’t feel any pain whatsoever or move her legs. However, she is still conscious and aware of everything that is happening.

Before the anesthesiologist administers anesthesia, they talk to the patient and study their medical history, such as allergies. Patients have to sign a form of consent before the process even begins. For people who are minors, their parent or guardian needs to sign the consent form. An adult also has to be present during the procedure, just in case there is an emergency. After surgery, patients receive medication to help their body deal with the side effects of anesthesia.

As helpful as it is, there are some common side effects of anesthesia you should know about. Read on to learn more about them, as well as how to avoid them.

1. Nausea and Vomiting

Depending on the type of surgery, nausea and vomiting can occur. This side effect usually clears up after 24 hours. Vomiting and nausea can also occur after a patient endures an uncomfortable position for a long time. Medical experts call this postoperative nausea and vomiting. This feeling might continue for a couple of days, depending on the way your body reacts to the anesthesia drugs.

This process of nausea and vomiting is uncomfortable. A patient can lose weight and become dehydrated in the process. If you experience this, you need to drink lots of fluids. You should try to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals to ensure your body stays strong. Having anesthesia is like consuming drugs and alcohol. It causes your body to produce more acids, which causes your blood to adapt to the situation. When the anesthesia stops, your body becomes confused and off-balance, which leads to nausea and vomiting.

People who often experience minor motion sickness may not experience this type of side effect for long because their body is accustomed to feeling nauseated. So, any nausea they may experience is usually short-lived because their bodies know how to adjust to the feeling. This can also apply to women who have had morning sicknesses during their pregnancy.

Recent research studies suggest the people who experienced the most nausea and vomiting were female or those who have a severe problem with motion sickness. They also discovered that younger people are more affected, as well as non-smokers. Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid nausea and vomiting. However, by consuming the proper foods and liquids to stay hydrated and well-nourished, you can fight it and can get back to your normal self quickly.

2. Chills and Shivering

After the surgical process, your body will increase blood flow in numb areas to help it return to its normal state of being in line with the rest of your body. During this process, your body may go into a type of withdrawal, much like drug addicts when they’re coming down from a high. Chills and shivering may occur because your body is working hard to get itself back to the correct temperature.

During this period, the medical staff will provide you with energy-giving fluids like glucose to encourage your body to recover more quickly. However, you will not be able to take in any solid foods or excessive amounts of food because this could result in constipation.

The process is medically known as hypothermia. Chills and shivering are also side effects that most people endure after coming out of surgery. The shivering process can cause a lot of discomfort for patients recovering from anesthesia. This is a normal process of your body when it is trying to be more comfortable and generate more heat. Patients must be careful because the movement of the shivering process can lead to damage to the freshly-sewn wound.

The post-effects of anesthesia tend to hinder your body from generating heat. Vasodilatation or the opening of blood vessels decreases blood pressure. Vasodilatation for prolonged periods of time also tends to hinder your body’s ability to generate heat. After surgery, patients usually rest in comfortable, warm garments that don’t irritate surgical wounds. As for babies, regulating their movement is often necessary. There should be a guardian constantly at the baby’s side to reduce the risk of the baby injuring themselves from movement.

An Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine report discovered using ketamine and pethidine after a surgical procedure greatly lowers the rate of body shivering. They reported mild hypothermia is more present during this process. This mostly occurs after the body tries to redistribute the energy to stop vasodilatation. This side effect is more common in males than in females, because their skin is more sensitive and generates heat much faster.

3. Sore Throat

Sore throats tend to come about due to bacteria, from colds and flu, or even the lack of adequate water supply in the body. After surgery, patients tend to be dehydrated due to the inadequate water supply and blood flow in the body. Patients also experience dry mouth and mild hoarseness in the throat. Communicating can be rather difficult, and if you don’t receive water or any fluids immediately, you could collapse. However, this side effect is not life-threatening if you or your doctor tend to it early.

Sore throats can also happen after the removal of the tube fixed with in the mouth and windpipe to enable patients to breathe during surgery. The body tends to react from sudden change and irritation, so one may experience a sore throat and hoarseness. This usually happens in the first four to six hours after surgery. It usually occurs with general anesthesia where the patient becomes completely unconscious. Sore throats are uncomfortable, so seek medical attention if you experience this discomfort for more than a day.

Medical doctors normally talk to patients and describe the symptoms that may arise from anesthesia, such as a sore throat. Sore throats for children who haven’t mastered fluent speaking is also dangerous. They may even end up not being able to pronounce some words for the rest of their lives. A research published in 2013 in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal highlighted all the risk factors that arise after surgery to the throat. The most dangerous of them is the loss of throat function, which can lead to throat surgery.

People over the age of 60 also suffer from sore throats due to weaker bodies. They commonly get medicine to reduce sore throat symptoms. Elderly people who use a throat pack or endotracheal tube need to consider the use of medicines that lessen the pain in the body. However, when having regional surgery, doctors can avoid sore throats by inserting a smaller tube during the surgical procedure.

4. Headache

A headache is the feeling of pain and/or pressure in the head or the brain. Headaches can affect your eyes, ears or nose if the pain is extreme. They tend to make people uncomfortable and unhappy. Continuous headaches can lead to complications like internal bleeding in the brain, amnesia, meningitis and exhaustion. It is normal to encounter headaches and dizziness immediately after surgery. This is because the blood supply to the head needs to get back to normal after the surgical process, because it is lacking an adequate supply of oxygen.

This feeling often occurs shortly after general or regional anesthesia. Headaches often happen when undergoing surgeries like caesarian sections, hip replacements or operations that involve lower parts of the body. These headaches are the result of leaking spinal fluids during the injection process.

It does not lead to any complications, but if the anesthesiologist injects the wrong part of the spinal cord, you could end up not being able to bend again. It could also reduce your back strength. Sometimes, a patient can end up in a coma due to excessive leakage of spinal fluids in the body.

The loss of spinal fluids leads to internal pressure in the brain. Headaches can occur as a result. Decreased pressure in the fluids that surround the brain and the spinal cord can lead to spinal headaches. Patients often experience this type of headache 12 to 14 hours after surgery.

Medical personnel will monitor surgical patients to help them avoid the horrible side effects from excess pain, and possibly even brain damage if left untreated.

In 2013, an article in The Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine found that 18 percent of people who undergo regional surgery suffer from spinal leakage. Although this is a normal side effect, the results lead to spinal headaches. Postural headaches were also discovered to be a characteristic of spinal puncture headaches. Doctors often prescribe painkillers for patients to reduce the pain, which they can take before surgery to prevent headaches from happening in the first place.

5. Confusion and Cognitive Decline

After a surgical procedure, patients experience a lot of trauma and pain, including headaches, sore throats and sometimes even temporary loss of sight. This can lead to confusion in bodily functions. The brain is the most affected part in your body following surgery. This is because it is not oxygenated properly during the process. This lack of oxygen can cause patients to feel confused as their heart pumps blood at a greater pace into the brain vessels. This generally is what leads to confusion and disorientation in the body.

People who come out of surgery tend to have impaired judgment, which can lead to making poor decisions. This makes what they do during this period void because it cannot be used against them in a court of law. Ladies who have undergone C-sections may try to kill their children or hurt them due to their impaired judgment. That is why hospital staff monitors them during this period as they might end up doing something they will regret in the future. This process of not thinking clearly is normal for a few days before the brain adapts to its normal routine.

For elderly people, the confusion can last up to four weeks, especially if the person is already suffering from memory loss. A medical study in 2002 revealed that prolonged postoperative memory loss is likely to affect women over the age of 40 who give birth by caesarian section. Men who undergo surgery over the age of 60 are likely to suffer from memory loss. If the body and brain are too weak, they may never recover from the confusion and memory loss. The rate of memory loss increases as the age increases, up to 80. People over the age of 80 could even return to behaving like infants.

For this reason, family members of elderly patients receive instructions and information on the possibility of permanent memory loss before they sign any consent forms.

6. Muscle Pain

Muscle pain results from the lack of oxygen supply to your body tissues. In normal circumstances, this is the result of exertion, like exercising or running. However, after anesthesia, you may also suffer from muscle strain in some parts of your body. This is because your body is trying to accumulate enough oxygen. Certain medications that help patients relax can also lead to muscle soreness. Also, patients tend to lie in one place for a long time during surgery, which makes muscles numb, stiff and sore. Normal body parts that experience muscle strain are the neck, shoulders, back and chest.

This stiffness and soreness normally occur during the first two days after surgery. The pain can also happen because your body is working to get rid of the anesthesia. Another cause is the lack of adequate rest during this period, which can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain.

Sometimes, breathing tubes can cause a lot of muscle pain in your throat. The best thing about muscle pain is that it does not need any medical treatment. It just goes away without having to endure any medical procedures. The only thing you need to do is do some easy exercises like stretching while ensuring you do not affect the surgical area. As for an extremely sore throat, try to avoid solid foods, and drink water and glucose.

Muscle pain is common in female patients who are undergoing ambulatory surgery. The female muscles are mostly tender and tampering with them leads to a lot of pain in the body. They are advised not to move around too much. They just need to relax and the pain will go away. Females need to get help from their husbands, children or friends because the moving around of their muscles might result in one suffering from permanent back pain.

Back pain can grow into many complicated issues. Some women may also not be able to give birth again. Athletic people are required to take a break from their careers, so they can heal fully. An inadequate lack of rest could lead them to never recover at all, or it may lead to surgery for an even worse condition.

7. Tooth Damage

Your teeth and mouth may become damaged during the anesthesia process. This is a result of weak enamel. However, this side effect is not common to most patients. A certain percentage of people who undergo general surgery tend to suffer from small cuts in their mouths. Poor oral health can result in the destruction of some tooth fillings.

Other complications can occur, especially in the upper jaw. It can be difficult to insert a breathing tube in a patient in a poor dental situation. Another complication is that tooth enamel can deteriorate, resulting in increased sensitivity to hot and cold substances.

The mouth has a great deal of strength and force, which can lead to damage during the intubation process. When a person is being prepared for surgery, there is always risk of damage to the teeth. There are several surgical processes that take place directly in the mouth, like a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, vocal cord surgery, cleft palate correction and jaw fracture repair.

Injury to deciduous teeth may hinder jaw development. The deciduous teeth enable proper speech and injury to them might lead to one never getting their fluent speech back. Surgeons use a device known as laryngoscope in the mouth of the patient to monitor their vocal cords. This helps avoid the damage that might occur if they don’t use extreme care. They also use oral retractors to keep the mouth open during the process, like the Crowe-Davis retractor that resembles a crowbar.

These tools often lead to an exertion of great force in the jaw often causing fracturing of the teeth or mouth scars. People with dental decay are more likely to suffer these effects. It is also advisable to make sure the anesthesiologist knows about any medical conditions that might be affecting your mouth. Decayed teeth could also be lost during the process.

If a patient has previously undergone any dental work, the pressure of the surgical process may destroy things like artificial implants. Treatment of damaged teeth due to surgery can be expensive, so you may need to consult a dentist or dental surgeon for advice on how to correct the issue.

8. Difficulty Urinating and Hematoma

Since your body has undergone a period of numbness, the lower parts of it may tend to be less efficient in their functions. You may end up having a lot of pain while urinating, which might result in other bladder problems. For women, a weak bladder could end up being one of the side effects of undergoing surgery. During the numbness period, the body does not know how to respond to some urges. It could either accidentally excrete urine or hold for an extremely long time. The withholding may eventually cause your bladder to burst if the doctor leaves it untreated.

For many males, holding their urine for a long time is challenging. In fact, if a male patient goes a long time without urinating, it could lead to a damaged urethra. To avoid this, medical doctors may insert a catheter to direct the urine to the outside of the body into a plastic bag.

Prolonged periods of withholding your urine may lead to kidney failure, which could result in heart dysfunction. Urination is important to excrete waste from your body. Patients should take their post-surgery urination problems seriously. If a patient has not urinated for an extended time, they need to see a physician immediately.

When a patient has anesthesia, they can suffer from bleeding beneath the skin surface. This is a rare condition, but if they don’t take it seriously, it can lead to blood clotting beneath the skin. This can result in hospitalization or even heading back for additional surgery. This type of bleeding can also lead to decaying body parts because your body is not removing waste properly. Waste buildup beneath the skin leads to the formation of pores and bad body odor. This can be detrimental to the patient if they don’t take this precaution seriously.

After surgery, surgeons, staff and medical doctors are supposed to ensure that any wounds and openings are gently sutured together, so they can heal. A lack of proper wound care could even lead to death. Patients are advised to follow medical instructions from specialists with a certification from the medical board in their country. Inadequately trained doctors may lead patients with unnecessary wounds, infections and bladder problems.

9. Nerve Damage and Pneumothorax

Nerve damage rarely occurs during the surgical process. A small number of people may suffer from nerve damage if their body doesn’t accept the anesthesia. Nerve damage often affects your sense of touch, taste or feeling. The insertion of the tube down the windpipe may lead to damage to some nerve endings. This could cause a loss of the tongue’s sense of taste and feeling, including texture and temperature. As for the rest of your body, you can experience nerve damage due to the excessive use of anesthesia.

Nerve damage may cause your body to lose its sense of touch or feeling. You can end up having wounds, cuts and bruises because your nerves are dead. You may not even know they are injured. The lack of active nerves in the body makes a person like a walking dead person because the only difference between the two is that a person who is alive can feel and taste.

Losing one’s nerve endings is like losing the sense of life. If discovered early, it is possible to repair some of these nerves. However, if the doctors don’t discover it in time, it will be impossible to bring them back. It is advisable for doctors to observe patients keenly for a week before they discharge them.

Pneumothorax is a medical condition that occurs when a doctor inserts anesthesia near the lungs. This can impair the lungs, causing a lack of breathing. If the medical staff doesn’t correct it as soon as possible, it could lead to losing the patient’s life. Inserting a tube into the patient’s lungs can enable the patient to breathe as their body works to repair the damage. The anesthesia syringe can create holes in the lungs that fill with fluid, making breathing difficult, as well.

To save a patient’s lungs, doctors will insert a tube to remove extra fluids from the lungs. The patient should also relax and avoid any unnecessary movement that could lead to a worsening of the condition. Infants cannot breastfeed or bottle feed during these periods and have to take their foods intravenously.

10. Obesity and Anesthesia Problems

It is important to observe people who are suffering from obesity closely before they get anesthesia. This is because the medication can induce a stroke or heart attack in some obese people. Families with obese members should be aware of the results that occur from anesthesia on people with that condition. Finding a vein in an obese person is difficult, and the doctor could inject the shot on the wrong vein. The administering of the correct amount of anesthesia for people with obesity is also difficult, as it is hard to calculate the required amount for the full period of the operation.

Obese people tend to sleep deeply, so it is difficult to wake them up if their body is not ready. They also take a longer time to heal. They take twice the amount of time to heal than a person who is not obese. This makes it difficult to avoid lung damage. It is a requirement for medical doctors to insert a breathing pipe for obese patients. In addition, they should only get glucose with water when they are recovering from an operation.

People suffering from obesity are likely to have more muscle pain due to a lack of adequate oxygen generation in their muscles. They may have headaches that last for a week. An overweight person is more prone to suffer from exhaustion after surgery compared to someone of normal weight.

To avoid this, it is best for patients to meet with a physician a few months prior to surgery, so they can work to keep themselves healthy by shedding some unnecessary weight. Also, getting rid of any other medical conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure by losing weight can make the outcome far better.

Surgery is scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are going to have an operation, talk to your doctor and ask any questions you may have. Share your surgery instructions with your family or caretaker. Take the time to plan your surgery, so you can rest completely afterward. You can make sure your outcome is positive by taking the proper steps.