What are Anesthesia Complications?

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  • Written By: Sandy Baker
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2020
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Used as a method of pain control, anesthesia numbs an area of the body or causes a person to sleep during a painful procedure. Anesthesia complications are rare, but can occur due to existing medical conditions, the use of some substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs, and age. Most types of anesthesia involve some risk, but it is rare to have significant side effects or complications from it.

The most common anesthesia complications stem from personal risk factors, such as a person's age, with older people being more prone to complications, and allergic reactions to the medication. Some medical conditions, such as circulatory, nervous system, or heart conditions can increase risks. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also contribute to the potential for complications, as can smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illegal drugs.

In regional anesthesia, the doctor injects the anesthetic close to a nerve, which can lead to nerve damage. This can lead to weakness, pain, or numbness in those nerves after the procedure. Systemic toxicity is another potential risk, if the anesthetic enters through the blood stream. Bruising, swelling, and infection may occur at the injection site.


In spinal anesthesia procedures, where the anesthetic is injected into the fluid of the spinal cord, headaches may occur. This is the result of leaking fluid. A blood patch, which is the injection of small amount of blood into the area where the leak is occurring, can treat this complication. This is most common in younger patients.

Anesthesia complications also occur during general anesthesia, where a person is put to sleep for the procedure. Complications are usually rare, especially in otherwise healthy people. Serious complications may include changes in heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure fluctuations, and heart attack. Some people may suffer strokes.

The types of anesthesia used may also lead to complications in some people, especially if allergic reactions occur. Some people may have other abnormal reactions, but this is rare. Some people mistakenly believe that anesthesia will not work, leading to awareness during general anesthesia. This is very rare and doctors use a number of methods to prevent and monitor for such occurrences.

It is rare, but possible, for anesthesia machines and anesthesia software to not work properly, leading to compilations for the patient. Machine and doctor monitored anesthesia usage is often in place to prevent this type of mechanical failure. Prevention of these types of anesthesia complications is part of the hospital's standard operating procedure.


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Post 2

Nausea and vomiting are also side effects of general anesthesia and I'm prone to that. That's a bummer. The worst part is, doctors are not especially certain why this happens, or how to stop it.

Being nauseated after you have surgery is the pits.

Post 1

When I had surgery, my blood pressure went pretty low a couple of times. Since I have high blood pressure, this sounded kind of unusual to me, but my surgeon said it wasn't uncommon. It has something to do with the core body temperature.

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