General anesthesia causes loss of consciousness and induction of a state that renders you unable to see, hear or feel anything while under its influence. As with other potent pharmacologic agents, general anesthesia presents some side effects.
Side effects are those events that are expected to occur in a subset of patients, along with the desired effect. Side effects can be annoying and inconvenient and even require treatment, but unlike complications, do not cause harm.
The most common side effects of general anesthesia are nausea and vomiting. Risk factors that increase the chances of this side effect of general anesthesia include female gender, non-smoker, history of motion sickness and prior episodes of nausea and vomiting after anesthesia.
General anesthesia implies that you are unconscious. While you are "out", the anesthesiologist will make sure you get enough oxygen and gas anesthesia. This is usually done with one of two devices. A breathing tube, called an endotracheal tube, is gently placed between your vocal cords and into your windpipe. Alternatively, a breathing mask, called an LMA (short for laryngeal mask airway) can be used for some surgeries. This LMA is an internal mask and sits over top of the opening to your windpipe, in the back of your throat, instead of in it.
The lining of the back of the throat is very sensitive and most people have a sore throat for a day or two after general anesthesia.
Shivering or shaking can occur as a side effect of general anesthesia. Anesthetic medications make your blood vessels dilate, leading to heat loss from your body. Usually, a warming blanket is used to keep your body temperature normal under anesthesia. But, shivering may still occur if your temperature drops.
In addition to shivering from heat loss, anesthetics themselves cause some people to shiver or shake, even with normal body temperature. It's uncertain why this occurs, but it can be treated with IV meperidine (Demerol).
Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists often use narcotic pain medications as part of your anesthetic. Itching is one of several common side effects of general anesthesia. This is believed to be due to the action of the narcotic on specific receptors in the body, separate from those receptors that help relieve pain. Often diphenhydramine (Benedryl) will relieve the itching. Always call your doctor if you have a rash, swelling or difficulty breathing with the itching to rule out an allergic reaction.
The drowsiness caused by general anesthesia lasts for different amounts of time in different people. Some people feel fine by the next morning and others feel like the anesthesia lasted for days. It's difficult to tell what effect is really from the anesthesia, especially if you take pain medications afterwards. Some of the fatigue is from the stress of surgery itself as your body uses its energy to recover from the operation.
select one here...