Top 5 Side Effects of Anesthesia

General anesthesia is given to patients for a variety of procedures, including outpatient surgery and dental operations. Although anesthesia is commonplace and only administered by professionals, it’s still not understood well by many patients.

The side-effects of anesthesia vary, and perhaps you’ve even seen some of the viral videos that depict people’s silly and delirious reactions as the drug wears off. Your doctor will be able to walk you through the surgical procedure and possible side-effects, but understanding them on your own can help you feel more confident and comfortable when you undergo your procedure.

1. Confusion and Drowsiness

It’s common to feel disoriented and groggy after waking up from anesthesia. Elderly patients are at an increased risk of prolonged confusion and memory loss, a condition called “postoperative delirium.”

2. Chills and Shivering

Approximately 50 percent of patients feel cold and shake uncontrollably after anesthesia. During surgery, the body temperature lowers, so it’s normal for some patients to feel chills for a little while after waking up.

3. Soreness

Because anesthesia drugs relax your muscles, they may feel sore and tender once you regain consciousness. The aches may be relieved with hot or cold compresses. You may also wake up with a sore throat from the breathing tube inserted down your throat during surgery.

4. Nausea

It’s very common for patients to wake up and vomit. While the majority of anesthesia nausea occurs immediately following surgery, some patients will feel queasy for a few days. Taking some anti-nausea medication and staying hydrated can help.

5. Itching

Some people report feeling itchy as their anesthesia wears off, but this side-effect can also be caused by some of the prescription medications administered as pain relievers. Many of the medications people receive prior and after surgery can cause itching, and some people may develop a rash.


For most people, the side-effects of general anesthesia wear off in a couple of hours. Others may experience prolonged confusion for about a week. Working with a physician anesthesiologist can help counteract the effects of both pre and post-operative care.

Physician anesthesiologists are medical doctors who specialize in not only anesthesia but also critical care and pain management. You should talk to your surgeon about what types of anesthesia are available; in some cases, patients who do not want general anesthesia or are considered high-risk may be given an alternative form of sedation instead.

Overall, anesthesia is considered extremely safe and prevents patients from experiencing any pain or distress during surgery.

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