Understanding both the common and serious kinds of general anesthesia side effects will help you know what to expect, understand how to properly manage them, and know when to seek medical attention. Usually, techniques for managing the side effects are straightforward and include plenty of rest, ice chips for dry mouth and dehydration, and a warm room and blanket for decreased body temperature. Other side effects, such as confusion, dizziness, and weakness may require physical assistance from a nurse or home caregiver. Generally, only certain demographics of patients are at a high risk for serious side effects. Instead of trying to manage serious side effects, the patient should seek medical attention immediately.
Some of the most common general anesthesia side effects involve both your mental faculties and physical body. As general anesthetics begin to wear off, many patients experience confusion or disorientation or have trouble thinking clearly. A dry mouth and feeling of dehydration are typical side effects, as are nausea and vomiting. Some patients may feel cold because their body temperatures have dropped. Of course, patients can also expect a certain level of pain from the surgery itself.
You’ll experience most of these general anesthesia side effects at the hospital. After your surgery, you’ll be placed in a recovery area where you will rest and your doctor and nurses will monitor your recovery and provide assistance, such as ice chips and extra blankets, as necessary. Once you fully wake, your doctor or nurse will explain the side effects you’re experiencing and, depending on the circumstances, may provide additional medications to help you manage them. Generally, with proper rest, the bulk of these side effects wear off within a few hours of your surgery. If they don’t, or they become worse, your doctor will examine you and determine the appropriate treatment.
After you spend a certain amount of time in a recovery room, you will then either be transferred to another part of the hospital or allowed to go home. This depends on the kind of surgery you have. Typically, day-surgery patients are allowed to go home the same day of their surgeries, whereas patients who have more extensive surgeries remain in the hospital for several days.
Regardless of where you go after recovery, it’s important to have help managing the remaining surgery and general anesthesia side effects, especially during the first 24 hours after surgery. Nurses will assist you if you remain at the hospital, and a family member or friend can help if you go home. Since you might still experience dizziness, confusion, weakness, and pain, you might need assistance showering, getting dressed, and even visiting the restroom. Patients who go home the same day of their surgeries also will need help driving, accessing their pharmacies, and contacting the hospital or emergency medical assistance if complications occur.
Serious general anesthesia side effects aren’t common among healthy patients. Still, older individuals, smokers, people who use drugs or alcohol, people with certain health conditions, and people who regularly take certain kinds of medications could be at risk for serious side effects. Even healthy individuals can experience serious side effects, especially if they don’t provide their surgeons with accurate information or are allergic to the anesthesia.
While the side effects of surgery, such as pain and weakness, can last for a couple of weeks following the surgery, the common general anesthesia side effects should significantly begin to fade or disappear within 24 hours. If you experience painful side effects beyond this point, or notice other unusual side effects like blood in your urine or stool, don’t try to manage them yourself. Notify your nurse or caregiver immediately.