General anesthesia is a necessary part of many medical and surgical procedures. Most people don’t experience any issues or only minor issues following anesthesia.
However, there are potential risks and side effects associated with anesthesia, and in rare cases, these can be serious or even life-threatening.
Your anesthesiologist and health care team will go over anesthesia’s risks and side effects before your procedure. And they will closely monitor you during and after your procedure to ensure you’re as safe as possible.
Be honest with your anesthesiologist about your health history and any drugs or medications you’re taking, as this can help them minimize the risks.
Nausea and Vomiting
The most common complication you may experience after general anesthesia is nausea and vomiting.
Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) may be more or less common depending on the type of anesthetic you receive, the other medications you’re given during surgery, and your response to anesthesia.
Most people who experience PONV feel better within a few hours and don’t need any treatment. However, sometimes, PONV can be more severe and may be treated with medications.
General anesthesia paralyzes your muscles, including the ones involved in breathing. Because of this, a breathing tube is inserted into your throat during surgery.
The tube is removed before you wake up, but it can sometimes cause irritation or hoarseness in your throat for a few days. This may be compounded due to the drying effect of anesthesia and abstinence from eating and drinking before surgery.
It’s common to feel disoriented or confused when you first wake up from anesthesia. This is usually a temporary side effect and should clear up within a few hours.
Anesthesia can also sometimes cause short-term memory problems. This is more common in older adults, but it can happen to people of any age, depending on the type of anesthesia involved.
Urinary and Intestinal Problems
General anesthesia will also temporarily paralyze your intestines and urinary system. This can, in some cases, lead to constipation or difficulty urinating following the procedure.
These problems can potentially be severe if they’re not quickly addressed. Tell your care team immediately if you’re having any issues so they can help you.
This is also why patients are typically kept in the recovery room until they have passed gas, signifying that their intestines are working properly.
Is It Safe?
While anesthesia does carry some risks and side effects, it’s generally considered safe for most people.
Suppose your doctors have determined that you need a procedure that requires anesthesia. In that case, this usually means that the risks associated with anesthesia are outweighed by the dangers of not having the procedure.
You should always follow your doctor’s instructions and be sure to ask any questions you may have about the anesthesia or the procedure itself. They can help address your concerns and explain how the anesthesia will be administered and monitored.