Anesthesia : Risk Factors, Side Effects And Surgery


A combination of drugs called general anesthesia puts you into a sleep-like state before surgery or other medical procedures. While under general anesthesia, you are completely unconscious and are not feeling any pain. Typically, a combination of intravenous medications and breathing gasses are used for general anesthesia (anesthetics).

Even though you will probably think you are just sleeping during general anesthesia, there's more to it than that. The anaesthetized brain, however, is not sensitive to pain signals or reflexes.

A doctor with specialized training in anesthesia is known as an anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist regulates your breathing while monitoring the vital indicators of your body.

In many institutions, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and an anesthesiologist collaborate throughout the surgery.

Reasons for Anaesthesia

Based on the kind of operation you are having, your general health, and your personal preferences, your doctor and your anesthesiologist will propose the best anesthesia choice for you. Your team could advise general anesthesia for particular treatments. These might include techniques that:

  • Last a while
  • Cause substantial blood loss
  • Put you in a cool atmosphere
  • Influence how you breathe (particularly chest or upper abdominal surgery)
  • For more extensive treatments, other types of anaesthesia, such as light sedation mixed with local or regional anaesthetic (for a broader portion of your body), may not be appropriate.

Risk Factors

The majority of patients, including those with serious medical issues, are able to receive general anaesthesia without experiencing any major complications. General anaesthesia is generally quite safe.

The sort of surgery you are having and your overall physical health are really more closely tied to your risk of complications than the type of anaesthetic.

Postoperative disorientation, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attacks may be more likely in older persons or people with serious medical conditions, especially those undergoing more extensive surgeries. The following specific conditions can raise your risk of problems during surgery:

  • Smoking
  • Seizures
  • Obstructive snoring
  • Obesity
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Diabetes 
  • Stroke 
  • Additional illnesses affecting your heart, lungs, or kidneys
  • Medications that may cause increased bleeding, such as aspirin

Side effects

There are a few typical side effects of general anaesthesia. Before your procedure, the anaesthetist should go over these with you.

The majority of side effects appear right away following surgery and disappear quickly. Potential negative consequences include:

  • Feeling sick or being sick (vomiting) - this usually occurs right away, but some people may continue to feel sick for up to a day 
  • Shivering and feeling cold - this may last for a few minutes or hours
  • Confusion and memory loss - this is more common in older people or those who already have memory problems; it's typically temporary, but occasionally can be longer lasting bladder problems 
  • You may experience dizziness, which will be treated with fluids, as well as possible bruising and discomfort in the location where you had the injection.
  • Damage to the mouth or teeth - a small percentage of people may have small cuts to their lips or tongue from the tube, and some may have damage to their teeth.

Before surgery

You will consult with a professional doctor known as an anaesthetist before undergoing surgery to determine which anaesthetic is best for you.

When the anaesthetist does what is known as a preoperative examination, they will:

  • Discuss the sort of anaesthesia that might be most appropriate for you.
  • Describe the dangers of anaesthesia
  • Establish a plan with you for your postoperative anaesthesia and pain management
  • The anesthesiologist will review your medical history and inquire about any previous anesthesia-related issues in your family. 
  • They will inquire about your lifestyle and general health, especially whether you:
  • possess allergies
  • Whether you use tobacco products, alcohol, or other medications
  • Any queries you may have can be answered by the anaesthetist.
  • If you have questions about any step of the process consult your doctor.
  • Before the procedure, you should be given specific instructions to follow, including whether you can eat or drink anything during that time.

During and After surgery

You will often be escorted to a room right before your surgery, when the anaesthetist will administer the general anaesthetic.

It will be presented as a:

  •  a cannula to inject a liquid into your veins (a thin, plastic tube that feeds into a vein, usually on the back of your hand)
  • breathing in gas through a mask
  • The anaesthetic should start working right away. You'll first experience dizziness before going unconscious in about a minute.

You will be with the anaesthetist the entire time. They'll see to it that you keep getting the anaesthetic and remain in a monitored state of unconsciousness. Additionally, they will inject painkillers into your veins so that you can wake up comfortably.

After the procedure, the anaesthetist will cease administering the anaesthetic, and you'll begin to gradually wake up. Before being moved to a ward, you will often first be in a recovery room.

You may need to stay in the hospital for a few hours to a few days following your operation, depending on your specific situation.

Complications of Anaesthesia

Various estimates show that 1–2 persons in every 1,000 may experience unintentional intraoperative consciousness, or being partially awake during general anaesthesia. Pain can also happen, though it is considerably less often.

People are unable to move or speak to let doctors know they are awake or in pain because of the muscle relaxants administered before surgery. This could result in long-term psychiatric issues for some patients, much like post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is challenging to draw conclusive correlations because this phenomenon is so uncommon. Some elements that could be at play include:

  • Immediate surgery
  • Cesarean section
  • Depression
  • Use of specific drugs
  • Lungs or heart issues
  • Daily alcohol consumption


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Page last reviewed: Mar 6, 2023

Next review due: Mar 6, 2025

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