I am a board-certified anesthesiologist in Lake Tahoe, California. I write from the perspective of both a doctor and a patient.
General Anesthesia Side Effects and Complications
As a board-certified anesthesiologist, I’ve walked hundreds, if not thousands, of patients through the process of anesthesia, explaining to them how it works and what the possible side effects and complications might be. In this article, I will share with you what I tell my patients. I’ll give you the rundown on what to expect and how to prevent some potentially unpleasant after-effects.
Before going on, though, it might be helpful to distinguish a "side effect" from a "complication." A side effect is an annoying and perhaps unpleasant outcome that accompanies the desired effect of a treatment. However, side effects typically do not cause any lasting harm. For instance, weight gain is a side effect of certain medications. Once you go off the medication, however, the weight gain typically goes away.
A complication, on the other hand, is an undesirable outcome of a treatment that causes harm to the patient. Complications are sometimes avoidable and sometimes not, depending on any pre-existing conditions and other factors.
General anesthesia is the most frequently used anesthesia in surgery. General anesthesia puts you into a deep sleep so that you will not feel any pain or have any awareness of what’s happening. Since general anesthesia involves the use of IV and inhaled medicines to induce and maintain an unconscious state, it is not surprising that it is associated with side effects, and less commonly, complications. Given the significant changes induced by these powerful medications, though, the safety record of general anesthesia is particularly impressive.
Although the safety record is remarkable, side effects often cannot be avoided. Most people experience one or more of the most common anesthesia side effects.
Side Effect #1: Sore or Scratchy Throat
Many people report a scratchy or sore throat after anesthesia. This side effect is often the result of the anesthesiologist’s efforts to monitor and regulate your breathing when you’re under. Some anesthetized patients are able to breathe on their own while others require some intervention. Moreover, there are some surgeries, particularly those in the abdomen or chest, that require the muscles used to breath to stay relaxed and not contract. In those instances, you will absolutely need some external support to keep breathing.
In order to help you breathe or control breathing, the anesthesiologist can choose among several methods.
- Breathing tube. This is the most common method for abdominal, chest, brain, or other major surgery. The doctor will slide an endotracheal tube between the vocal cords and into your windpipe after you are unconscious. While this is usually an easy, gentle procedure, the back of the throat and the windpipe are super-sensitive areas. As a result, the insertion of the tube often causes a sore throat. It usually lasts just a day or two, can be relieved with lozenges and ice water, and then typically resolves on its own.
Anesthesiologist Placing a Breathing Tube
- Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA). This is a soft rubber mask made to fit inside the back of the throat. There is an opening for oxygen to pass through that sits over the entrance to the windpipe. The LMA allows you to breathe on your own and can be used for surgeries on areas outside the body cavities. The LMA may be associated with a lower incidence of, or lower severity of sore throat, but sore throats still occur fairly frequently. (Side Note: Although an LMA sounds better, there are some factors that make it less desirable than an endotracheal tube, such as if you have acid reflux. Since the windpipe isn't blocked off from the esophagus, as it is with a breathing tube, acid could potentially enter the lungs if you have this condition. Likewise, obese patients have a tougher time getting sufficient oxygen under the influence of the anesthesia drugs. So if your anesthesiologist has to use a breathing tube there is usually a medically sound reason why.)
Regardless of the breathing device used, oxygen and the anesthesia gases still dry out the mucosa of the throat contributing to that sore, scratchy feeling.
What Does an Anesthesiologist Do?
Side Effect #2: Post-Operative Nausea and Vomiting (PONV)
One of the most dreaded side effects of general anesthesia is nausea followed by vomiting. It’s such a frequent side effect that it has its own name: post-operative nausea and vomiting, or PONV. The nausea is triggered in some way by how the anesthesia affects the brain centers and the gastrointestinal system.
Patients with the following characteristics are more prone to PONV:
- A history of motion sickness
- A personal or family history of PONV
Surgeries more likely to lead to PONV include:
- Any surgery lasting longer than 30 minutes
- Abdominal and gynecological surgeries
- Ear, nose, and throat surgeries
- Laparoscopic surgeries
- Breast surgery
- Eye surgery
- Some orthopedic surgery
This list would appear to include almost every kind of surgery. Even in the few kinds of surgery not included, there are additional, unavoidable factors such as the such as use of narcotic and gas medications that contribute to PONV. So if we can't change many of these risk factors, what can we do about this particularly unpleasant side effect?
How to Prevent PONV
- Talk to your doctors. Follow pre-op instructions about not eating. Tell your anesthesiologist or the pre-op nurse about your risk factors (they will probably ask anyway). Also be sure to follow post-op instructions to the letter.
- Acupressure relief bands. Some people say they have been helped by the acupressure relief bands that are sold over the counter. Bring one with you and ask that it be applied as soon as it is safe (usually after surgery, but sometimes before).
- Start slow and go easy. When you get home, even if you feel hungry, start slowly with eating. Start with soft, easy-to-digest foods. Eat little bits at a time—and wait to see how you feel before moving on to harder-to-digest meals.
- Liquid diet. Some people prefer to stay on liquid diets for the first day after anesthesia. If you have had abdominal or gastrointestinal surgery, your diet will be restricted as ordered by your surgeon and advanced at their discretion.
- Ginger. The herb is often recommended as another over-the-counter nausea reliever. Follow your post-op instructions, as well.
- Preventative medications. We can give prophylactic (preventative) medications to help reduce the risk of PONV. There are various drugs we can give alone or in combination, based on the level of risk and the risk/benefit ratio of each drug, because, yes, they have side effects, too. Sometimes, we can alter the type of anesthetic or the medications used if the risk is significant.
- Hydration. We also try to make sure you are properly hydrated, especially if you have gone a long period of time before your surgery without liquids.
Surgeons need to get the surgery done and cannot make significant alterations in procedure to avoid nausea and vomiting.
- Anti-nausea medication. Surgeons can, at your request, prescribe an anti-nausea medicine along with the pain medicine that you will be taking. If you are prone to nausea and vomiting from the anesthetic, there is a good chance that the narcotic pain meds will make you sick, as well. So ask your surgeon in pre-op (before you are too out of it to remember) to prescribe the anti-nausea medicine.
Side Effect #3: Confusion
When coming out of anesthesia in the recovery, most people experience a profound sense of confusion and disorientation. It takes a while for the brain to actually wake up, even after you are conscious. Most people don't remember much after the pre-op sedative has been given.
However, some people remain confused for days or weeks, or longer, after their surgery and anesthetic. This is an active field of study right now, called Post-Operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD). One interesting thing to note is that this effect doesn’t just occur with general anesthesia. Indeed, even patients who had other types of anesthesia that should not affect the brain profoundly have experienced POCD. It seems that other factors, such as the stresses of surgery and recovery on the body, may also play a role.
At this point we know only that older patients and patients of lower socio-economic status have a higher risk for POCD. Active and diligent research continues to try to pinpoint who is at risk, why it occurs, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent it.
Side Effect #4: Muscle Aches
Often, if muscle aches accompany a sore throat, patients become concerned that they have the flu or that they “caught” something in the hospital. However, rest assured that both muscle aches and sore throats are relatively common side effects.
Muscle aches result from one of the medicines used to relax or "paralyze" the muscles so as to make it easier to insert the breathing tube and perform the surgery. Succinylcholine causes the muscles to "fasiculate," or rapidly contract and relax. This response to the medication may make the muscles feel sore for a day or two after surgery.
Heating pads and tylenol can be used for symptom relief, if anything at all is needed. Ask your surgeon before taking medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen, as these can contribute to bleeding from recent surgical sites.
Muscle and joint soreness can also result from lying motionless on the operating bed for extended periods of time. Unlike normal sleep, your body can't even make minor positional adjustments while you are under anesthesia. If you have pre-existing problems with soreness or stiffness, tell your nurse and anesthesiologist. If it doesn't interfere with the surgery, they may be able to pad or support that area differently to try to help.
Side Effect #5: Itching
A curious side effect of narcotic pain medication (often used as part of the anesthetic) is itching. Most people complain of itching on their face, especially the tip of the nose. Sometimes, people will have significant, all-over body itching and believe they are having an allergic reaction—and it can be hard to tell the difference—but most of the time, it's just a side effect.
Luckily, Benadryl can easily treat this side effect. However, first make sure it's okay to take over-the-counter medicines with the prescriptions you have been given. In the hospital, patients can get a special medicine that block the receptor responsible for itching but not pain relief, which is even more effective.
Narcotics are routinely used during anesthetics to block pain receptors and often cannot be avoided. Tell you anesthesia provider if you have had this bothersome side effect in the past.
Side Effect #6: Emotional Outbursts
A rather curious and common, although less-researched, side effect of anesthesia is emotional displays or outbursts after awakening. It should be stressed that these displays of emotion are not under the patient's voluntary control. If you have one of these extreme emotional reactions, it will not be held against you in any way. We know it's the meds.
A young man may wake up combative and in "fight" mode. Very often, their occupation or background gives clues that this may be an issue. With certain patients, particularly those in the military, law enforcement, or former prison inmates, I make sure to have extra medication on hand in order to calm an overly aggressive emergence from anesthesia. Luckily, the patient’s aggression usually resolves in less than five minutes; as they wake up, they are able to “reorient” to where they are and settle down on their own. Even when someone is very agitated, I probably give a sedative less than 10% of the time and only if I feel the patient may hurt himself or someone else (I got thumped in the sternum pretty hard once, so I have the medication ready, just in case!).
Young women are more likely to fall at the other end of the spectrum. Women from puberty on seem more likely to wake up tearful and crying. When they are awake enough to talk, they cannot explain why they are crying, and they often report that they don't feel particularly sad. They just can't stop crying. If this happens, it usually lasts less than 15 or 30 minutes.
Anesthesia may sound potentially scary and unpleasant, but keep in mind that all medications have side effects. The very powerful, potent, anesthetic agents are certainly no exception. No one, not even your anesthesiologist, can predict how you will feel or which side effects you may experience. If you are having surgery, talk to the pre-op nurse or the anesthesiologist (or both) about any concerns that you have. They will be able to discuss all of the risks and benefits with you. Chances are, though, that even with the possibility of side effects, you will still likely decide to have your surgery with anesthesia—rather than without it!
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Remember, never rely on the internet as your only source of advice or help. Call your surgeon or surgery center with any questions or concerns.
Savanah on August 02, 2020:
Hi, I'm not sure if your still responding to people on here but if so I have a few questions.
I'm 16 and I'm gonna get 4 teeth removed next week, they are gonna give me anesthesia and I'm kind of scared. I'm just worried that something will go wrong or if that I'll be different after waking up.
Do you have any insight?
Jabulani on June 01, 2019:
My 5 year old son had a sedation for his tooth. And 2 weeks later still itching.
Alma on May 19, 2019:
I had a lithotrypsy done and as I approached the 24hr postoperative mark I began to belch and pass gas frequently. Is this caused by anesthisia? I guess I should mention that it has a weird taste to it, almost like a spoil boiled egg or orange mixture taste. Is this normal, it's never happened before.
Debbi Arentz on April 24, 2019:
Why did my left foot turn inafter Ketomine3 doses and then Fentonal? I could here them?
email@example.com on March 18, 2019:
I was going under today and before I passed out my throat and airways constricted..I could not inhale air..I was suffocating..why?
SD on March 18, 2019:
Having an ablation (2:24-heart) & partial hip surgery replacement (5/8-broken hip) same year I’ve encountered lightheadedness, feeling so cold & now a total relaxed body seeming to have been drugged but only affecting neck down to toes. It’s been 2 years now. Do not so drugs but take prescribed meds post procedure. Could anesthesia be possible problem post procedures? General anesthesia -3 hrs & 5 hr procedures
Bea t. on February 19, 2019:
I had a virteous eye surgery pulled a horse shoe tare on retina. You lay head down face forward to heal for 7 days. It was quiet when i went in and woke up with pulsing electricity. I would hear it when i would put my face down. When finally stood up..a severe sharp head pain for 2 weeks had to take advil gel 40 of them..brought the inflammation down, but still had pressure and lightheadness since the surgery since july 2018. Had mri and mra and ultrasound of side of neck. I began to have hissing in the head starting in september..terrible i still have it...that is why i had the mra.and ent..my hearing is fine. General anesthestics were lidocaine, propofol, fentanyl and..milocaine..or milozolam..and anti nausea medicine..my furst time gaving general anesthesia..i am 63 years old and this noise is disturbing...can u help me figure this out..is their anyway to make this better? I feel like it was t b e general anesthesia...i woke up with this racket.
Deb B. on January 17, 2019:
I had general anesthesia for a total hysterectomy, bladder mesh and more. The roof of my mouth has had a burning sensation for 10 days and possibly my tongue also-will this go away or can anything be done for it?
Laronda limon on October 21, 2018:
Two to three hrs. Prior to a pain injection in back or hip no small tart & a cup of coffee will not allow iv sedation for three min.? Help dr. Would not giv me sedation for fear I would get nausea then air in lungs etc. etc a small four small bite tart a small up of coffee. No see. For the 3 min. I just.?. Thanks but is this Ali’s bit too too..
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on September 04, 2018:
I'm sorry I've been unable to reply to my site for some time. Susan Smith, I'm not sure if you had a question prior to this that I missed. I don't think I have enough info to answer your question. Please let me know if you would like to give more info- were you awake or asleep for the biopsy? did you have anesthesia sprayed into your throat or were you asleep with general anesthesia? The anesthesia should have no permanent effect on your throat but the instruments used can make it feel differently for some time.
Susan Smith on September 03, 2018:
I would be grateful if my query could be considered as it is a constant source of worry. Should I feel the anaesthetic splash into mythroat and taste this when undergoing a right lung biopsy. My throat has never felt the same.
Ray on June 11, 2018:
Feeling freezing cold since removal of left kidney on 5/24/201
Candrika on February 20, 2018:
My friend's husband had undergone anesthesia for a minor check up, something about his digestion, I am not sure. But what I know, after he woke up, about half an hour later, he attacked my friend and treated her very harshly. She had to go to hospital. But here is the thing, he claims that he doesn't remember anything. He woke up wondering where his wife was, not remembering he kicked her out a few hours earlier. My friend also said it wasn't like him at all to act this way, he was never violent before and he spoke weirdly with a different slant and had this distant look in his eyes... Strange and confusing . Could it be the side effect of anesthesia?
Betty on January 25, 2018:
I had a tooth extracted today all seemed to have gone well, the procedure was about 9am then about 6pm I started tingling all over, I mean ALL over, my arms, hands, under my chin, my stomach, my thighs. Is this a side affect or something else. So far it has started over an hour., I took my blood pressure and it seems normal.
Kaye on January 12, 2018:
I am 63 years old and had gall bladder removal about 4 weeks ago and I have been experiencing a lot of agitation, confusion and sweating in the last 2 weeks, could this be a lingering effect of the anesthesia? Anyone else??
Lorriana on November 29, 2017:
rebecca on November 18, 2017:
Is it possible that the cough I have is caused from the anesthesia
kathy on November 01, 2017:
hi, i had gen. anes. for broken leg bone surgery (plate/screws). afterward i had severe indigestion, burning , did he get the tube in my airway ? or put it into esophagus? ive had gen. anes. b4 and never got an acid reflex afterward? and i dont see that as common side effect on this list
Babu on October 05, 2017:
My mom troubled by the pblm in her throat. We consult the doctor and he suggested for endoscopy test. During the endoscope test doctor put the spray(anthesia) into her mouth . Finally doctor Checked and told that nothing pblm.
But after that test mom got THRUSH in her tongue.is that cause of anesthia?
Militarybratt1968 on September 04, 2017:
I'm curious about long-term effects as in kidney and liver Toxicity. One week after my surgery I started getting severe edema they thought it could be congestive heart failure and DVT, which both proved negative. Week two edema, painful to walk, painful to touch. Week three edema I look pregnant my limbs feel as if I am wearing lead clothing. Week four edema they checked again for CHF and DVT. Again both negative. Doctor orders more lab test to check liver, and kidney. Waiting for results This is when I started reading a couple articles about the long-term adverse effect of anesthesia post-surgery which could be weeks, months or years later, has anybody thoroughly looked into this further.
Jessica on September 02, 2017:
Hi I had surgery 4 days ago under both armpits to remove cysts I've been getting chest pain is this normal?
Veronica on August 28, 2017:
I am suffering mood swings after general anathestic
have anyone else had this experience?
Lisa Gray on August 22, 2017:
I went in for a colonoscopy and a stomach scope. Ever since the procedure, my left eye keeps jumping. It has become very annoying. I want it to stop. I asked my doctor but he could not give me an explanation. I was out for almost two hours during the surgery.
. on August 11, 2017:
I'm pretty sure it's fine, but is it bad if you still like taste/smell the Anesthesia hours (around 12) after a surgery? It's really annoying and I picked an orange flavor so it's sweet and I'm not a big fan of sweet thing.
Cassandra Culver on August 10, 2017:
Everything taste and smells awful even things that aren't edible smell funny
Brenita on August 04, 2017:
Brenita 4 seconds ago:
It's been 7 days following the surgical removal of a 5 lb lipoma from my back under general anastesia., Is vaginal dryness common following general anesthesia?
Hashp from india on July 18, 2017:
Is the size of the endotracheal tube used an important factor in detetmining the chances of having a sore throat in the post operative period?
Yvonne McLean on June 27, 2017:
Any reason the anaesthitist would give me a general and a local together, the recovery nurse told me and they hadnt seen it before, I had horrible pain with the fluid going in and last I remember was kicking my legs in pain. Woke up emotional and freezing cold, tears wore off quick but was so cold for an hour. Surgery was today and I seem wired not at all sleepy. Straightforward precancer legion removal
sammi on June 24, 2017:
My son had general anesthesia for dental work. is four. He woke up crying and five minutes after waking up said his first words, I can't see. For the next hour and a half he cried, I can't see anything, why don't my eyes work. They are supposed to work. Why did the dentist take my eyes.
Why did this happen and how come no one warned us he may not have vision. I can't find anything similar online either.
Charles on June 22, 2017:
My husband went to the Dentist for a few tooth extractions. After teeth were pulled he started having pain in his neck , bad head ache and a swallow face on the side his teeth were pulled on. He also felt dizzy, light headed and nauseous. What can be done to make him committable.
Jane on June 11, 2017:
Hello Tahoe Doc, Thanks very much for your posts. I've had a hysterescopy five days ago with GA, it was to remove a large polyp which turned out to be a fibroid. I normally have low blood pressure, and it was low in recovery (@ 90/60, I think). I felt pretty bad for a few hours and had pain, so the nurse gave me morphine. Is the low blood pressure very dangerous? I have to have more surgery. I also get very cold and have been anaemic for at least last 2 and a half years, I suspect more. Thanks very much.
Serenelandscape on May 26, 2017:
Thank you for writing this article, it was very informative. Why do "patients of lower socio-economic status have a higher risk for POCD?
tom on May 26, 2017:
i woke up from surgery in horrible pain there was no pain medication in me and felt all of the operation that i just went through. than they came up with a pain med. i am furious .
Angela on May 11, 2017:
I had surgery yesterday and when I woke up today my face and neck are red is that normal?
Jenn BP on May 02, 2017:
please tell your doctor NOW - pink tinged sputum can be sign of a pulmonary embolism (blood clot)
Scarlettk53@comcast.net on April 29, 2017:
My tongue tip on right side is numb after surgery. I had a dnc of uterus. I also am experiencing a cough and phlegm with a sensation of trying to burp but cannot. I feel the intabation caused this. My sputum is tinged a little pink, and I feel that me esophagus is irritated. I have acid reflux at times and feel that is making the choking sensation worse. Surgery was a Friday and today is Saturday. Would like your thoughts...thanks.
theodore on April 12, 2017:
people are soooo twitty i dont have to purchase anymore weed just act like you are allergic and you get all you want free.
John on April 12, 2017:
I recently had a colonoscopy with sedation. After having come out of the procedure and when I returned home I noticed the roof of my mouth has a burning sensation like I burnt it, but there isn't actually a burn. Is this a side effect of anesthesia or could it be related to possible vitamin deficiency during my colon prep? Please help!
Kristi on February 24, 2017:
I had an advanced endoscopy 4 days ago where they removed a bezoar. When I was out and with my husband he stated he's never seen my eyes so red/blood shot. I also had a stuffy runny nose like I had been crying. I still have several red broken blood vessels in my eyes. I was under conscious sedation. Was I in pain and crying during the procedure and just don't remember?? I'm so curious. I'm also feeling a heaviness in my chest and itchy cough, could I be developing pneumonia?
Molly on February 15, 2017:
I had anaesthesia today for electroconvulsive therapy, and I was uncontrollably crying for over an hour. Like sobbing. Anesthesia is wild stuff.
soo on February 13, 2017:
hi I had surgery 5 days ago my arm have been hurting on the arm the iv was given in my arm feel weak and I can hardly write what is going on im nervous and im only 26 years old
Islandrottygirl on February 08, 2017:
Hi there, i had a 4 & 1/2 hr surgery on Dec 29th/16 i keep getting waves of the anesthetic taste couple times a week, today it was sooo strong made me feel sick, how long is this going to last?
pp on February 07, 2017:
How about your eyes? Any problem with long term effect on vision?
Anita ledonne on January 11, 2017:
Thank you for this insightful article explaining side effects of anesthesia. Well written and easy to understand. I had intense muscle aches and was worried something was very wrong. I found out I was given succinylcholine so now I feel confident these aches will go away in a few days and have already improved. I wish my surgeon had read this article instead of telling me these pains were not due to the surgery.
Erasmus on November 19, 2016:
Blue, the frosty light blue tinged color to everything I could see upon waking from general anesthesia. I noted the hive like reality of seeing patients being wheeled in (PACU) and the large number of nurses attending to us slugs lying in rows. One to one post anesthesia nurses caring for waking brains and waiting to see if there is a happy drunk coming out or a flat affect that will turn into something recognizable. My young and bright nurse said I wouldn't remember anything. I told her I was intact, appropriate and keenly aware and I was curious about this waking state and wondering "who lives here"; not literally but metaphorically as in this heightened state of clarity. Some of the waking patients were clearly struggling but others were happy drunks and within earshot we started to talk out loud to each other and making jokes about the individual we could hear whimpering; "how could he already have seen the bill?" but there was no cruelness, just an awareness that this was a shared experience now, in this twilight space. For a brief 20 minutes, I experienced a clarity that I suspect "really smart" individuals have as a baseline of viewing the world. I now appreciate addiction. If I could live in that twilight by using the general anesthesia drugs with precision there is no question I'd be living there now.
wnorm on September 21, 2016:
I am 63 and had 2 1/2 hour laparoscopic abdominal rectal prolapse surgery (no resection) 8 days ago. I had g.a. and took 5 mg morphine tabs every 4 or so hours +tylenol +advil for about 2 1/2 days post surgery as prescribed. I was originally supposed to be admitted for 3 days. However, as there were no complications, etc I was released ~ about 7 hours after surgery.
I have a history of motion sickness and vertigo. About 1 day after surgery, I started to feel a bit nauseous and dizzy. However, the nausea and dizziness are increasing progressively with time. I am unsteady on my feet. I do not have nystagmus or the spinning sensation. I have normal blood pressure. I do not have any underlying medical conditions that could cause this dizziness. None of my present medications are suspect. I tried unsuccessfully to reach the surgeon by phone. I could only reach the pharmacist who suggested that I take 16 mg Novo-Histidine 3x/day for ~ 3 days and then get seen by a doctor if the symptoms persist.
I understand that the surgical position was: supine postion with head down and feet up at I would guess ~ 60degrees.
Are symptoms of nausea and dizziness common after g.a. and this specific surgical position? What do you suggest?
donna christian on September 16, 2016:
does cause sweating after a vocal cord stripping remove
Recently Diagnosed on September 14, 2016:
I'm doing surgery in less than a month for uterine fibroids and the taught of having to go though such an evasive procedure scares me but I've got no choice but to go on with it, so since i can't run away from it cause it'll eventually catch up to me, my question is - what is the level of pain i will be hsving after surgery?, i have a low treshold of pain, great information by the way. THANKS YOU!!!
Paula on September 02, 2016:
to Jarrad2557 and any others:
Is it possible that the reactions can be caused by a defective MTHFR gene? Take a minute to do your own research to learn about it and consider getting tested. There are 2 types of this gene that can be defective. These genes are responsible for detoxifying your body as well as converting folic acid to folate, which affects the brain.
Just a thought that may be worthy of further investigation. Best of luck and good health to all.
Corey Stanley on August 18, 2016:
I have a serious question. Is it normal for general anesthesia to cause a sort of nonexistent state where you're there and you know but you can't do a single thing. I had my wisdom teeth removed and when I woke up I was out of it. I was so out of it that I knew I was awake I heard there was around me and was in the state of being where I just couldn't actually function. I couldn't talk the matter how much I wanted to I couldn't form stable sentences in my mind and I couldn't move I needed assistance even going to the car after the operation. It was scary to my family and I was in that catatonic state for about a good maybe four or five maybe six hours afterwards. I was just curious if that was normal?
Missy Justice on July 19, 2016:
I had a lung endoscopy/biopsy conducted by Pikeville Medical Center located in Pikeville, Ky. It was an outpatient endoscopy. I had no problems anywhere throughout my entire body prior to this endoscopy. As soon as the anesthesia wore off, I immediately experienced an extreme pounding pain in my tongue. I have a constant metallic taste in my mouth that will not allow me to taste food. The top right side of my tongue is numb, but I have full movement under my tongue. Due to the numbness on top of my tongue, the numbness in my tongue goes all the way down my throat. Of course we all know we only have one throat, however, it feels like I have 2 separate tubes going down my throat. Swallowing is very difficult due to the constant fear of choking to death on anything I eat or drink. This surgery took place October 2015 and all of the symptoms are still here to this day. I went to an ENT and was told it may go away tomorrow, 2 weeks from now, a month from now or NEVER. This pain is excruciating. I swear it feels like my tongue is going to pound out of my mouth. I wonder if I bite my tongue off if that will stop the pain or intensify it. When I bite down on the nerve, it cuts off the excruciating pain, however, clamping down on my tongue with my teeth is leaving gashes in my tongue. Does anyone have any advice? I can't get in touch with an anesthesiologist in my area, it's extremely rural where I live and no one seems to want to contradict the only hospital in my area. I would really appreciate any help I can get to fix this torture chamber that's been left in my mouth by the doctor or his staff.
Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on June 17, 2016:
So nice meeting you Tahoe Doc. wow what a fascinating hub, and it is so thoroughly written and so much detail and super photos, that this is definitely a must read for all those that have fear of being put under for a surgery, superior hub. I look forward to following you and reading all of your extraordinary hubs. :) Linda
Jim on May 08, 2016:
I have had 20 surgeries in 33 years of my 42 on this earth, and a quarter of those were in my first 6 months of life. My major concerns are what are the long term side effects?
But there are some good effects though. The funny little hallucinations, the euphoria of the narcotics, the general well being and happiness. I think I only ever got 2 or 3 doses of vomiting and those were mainly from spinal surgery.
Ruby from United States on March 31, 2016:
Some people might enjoy the side effects and not find them annoying. The narcotics can produce euphoria especially when IV'd.
kkson10 on March 25, 2016:
why does it take me a long time to finally go under when I am given general anesthesia? Sometimes I remember anesthesiologists getting upset with me because I was not going under quickly enough and sometimes I don't remember when the mask was placed over my face. The anesthesiologists, however, tell me each time in recovery that it took me a long time to go under.
Taranwanderer on February 02, 2016:
Wow - this is a heckuva hub. I've never been under (as far as I can remember) so now I know what to expect should I ever need surgery.
jarrod2557 on December 30, 2015:
Well, where to begin about my first surgery of my 40 years. I had a hyperactive gall bladder removed. Upon waking up from surgery the worst 2 weeks of my life began. It starts of pretty humours then after 2 weeks my loved ones are filling me in on a few days of blacking out. Absolutely no memory.
I woke up from surgery and asked my nurse if I was naked, then tugging on my IV line asking why I have a catheter and then asked this poor nurse if she took my pants off and if she like what she saw. My mother filled me in on this by the video she took. I'm a joker but not that blunt ever! I have social/ gen. anxiety disorder, ADHD and moderate OCD if this applies anywhere thru this. Im quite happy, kind and caring, whitty and creative. But most of all loving, respectful and usually on the antsy side with my conditions when I take my anxiety and adhd meds. But off them for several days to recover. The day after my surgery I found a lump on my testicle and didnt talk about it with anyone and going to deal with it after the holiday.
Now things really begin. So about a week goes by and I am heeling great and feeling wonderful, physically! Mentally, I turned into a negative ass that obsessed and dwelled on pointless issues. No appetite at all losing 17 lbs in 2 weeks. Just after a week this is where I begin to go blank, having no memory and dwelling on my coin purse and the lump I found earlier. So I'm functioning talking to my girlfriend telling her she deserves better than me, I'm no good, I'm a piece of shit not only shit but I'm at the bottom of that pile. Luckily she knows about anesthesia and its effects but not like this. She knew I was no at home in my head! I started a little spat with her which I escalated the to me thinking she dumped me, I'm losing my best friend, love and support and I'm going to die alone. All this in 10-15min she informed me when I came around 4 days later. I nearly checked into a place for a Psych evaluation. It's very disturbing having no knowledge of 4 days and functioning in my home but not in public that I know about yet. Plus receiving confirmation I updated beneficiaries with no knowledge.
I didn't quite realize that I was averaging 3 1/2 hours of sleep a night, hallucinations in low light areas, less than 500-900 calories intake daily, crying daily, stress over the boys and possible cancer, severe feeling of dread, fear and severe self image issues and bashing.
I feel all of this was triggered by the general anesthesia. Followed up by my existing mental health issues, surgery killing my appetite, lack of sleep and obsessively stressing about the lump which turned out being a cyst that formed after my vasectomy. I saw my shrink and she felt I might be allergic to the anesthesia first off. Then, with all the stress I held in along with all contributing factors part of my brain shutdown and basically in simple terms I was sleep walking for 4 days. I'm due for another surgery way more severe than my gall bladder but terrified now. Its at least a 6-10 hour surgery to fuse 2 levels in my neck, bone spurs, stenosis repair, spondylosis repair. Should I order a straight jacket and leash now for my family...lol.. Seriously tho! I need insight please... Thank you for any help!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 05, 2015:
TahoeDoc, I believe I'm allergic to anasthesia, (and I"m also allergic to sulfa drugs), when I had surgery from a root canal to my open heart surgery, 3 years ago. I do throw up from it. This is a great hub. Real useful and informative too.
iswanso on September 12, 2015:
I had angioplasty 3 days ago, after surgery they placed me on a CPAP machine for about 2 hours. Ever since the day after I feel like I have the flu. I ran fever for about 12 hours and then it returned to normal. But my back hurts between shoulder blades, and I just feel punk. Is this a normal reaction? No swelling or pain in groin where entry was made, the only pain is in my back
lynn on September 10, 2015:
I had an op and given mac anesthesia 9/9 at 11 am. It is now 9/10 @ 10:30 pm and I have continued having low blood pressure like 106/50 and sliw heart rate in he 40's. At about 3pm I started feeling like my head and ears were and still feel pressurized and my body feels sort of heavy. I was given Hydrocodon Acetaminophen to take for pain at home and have only used 3. What should I do?
VicWNB on August 06, 2015:
Thank you for the education, TahoeDoc. In the span of 5 days I had gone through a failed ERCP, followed by a successful one and then an open cholecystectomy 2 months back and still going through sleep deprivation, itching and easily getting tired. I had no pre-op or post-op orientation about possible effects of being under, so these information are very useful for me to understand what I'm going through and what to expect.
Scotty0boy on June 30, 2015:
I had general anesthesia three years ago and suffered from POCD for five weeks. I could not remember the previous 30 days, could not remember how to do my job, and felt like I was behind a veil that I couldn't pierce to get to my brain! My neurologist told me that up to 16% of people over the age of 60 can get POCD and some will develop dementia and basically come out of anesthesia with dementia. I was fortunate in that my cognitive function returned, but it was one heck of a 5 week wait. I now consider general anesthesia a life or death decision for me.
silverlining19 on March 02, 2015:
Hello..at the age of 19, I had liposuction done 12 years ago under general anesthesia (1 1/2 hour long) . I woke up hours later feeling sick and nauseous but managed to feel somewhat normal after the first day or two. It wasn't until day three when I experienced horrible feelings of what may be described as delirium or POCD? These symptoms were almost chronic for a year and I still deal with symptoms that float around. Some symptoms include feeling highly anxious, brain fog/zaps, hot/cold flushes, muscle tightness/twitches, body heaviness/sluggish, onset of some cognitive issues (depersonalizations/derealization, OCD). It literally felt like I was trapped in my body and needed to escape. I had myself checked out numerous times from all type of speciality doctors with negative results (blood work, MRI, SPECT, stress test). I caved in and sought psychologist who diagnosed me with PTSD/anxiety disorder. In your opinion, can the surgery be the result of anxiety or can anesthesia effect the brain like this 3+ days later? I'm just looking for the old me and I miss feeling comfortable in my body. I have been doing much better but not quite there yet. Thanks and take care...
Dely on February 07, 2015:
One of the reasons more educated, professional people do not report confusion lasting more than a day or two ...may be the fact that you report that lower socio economic and elderly have more problems. I am older but held a professional job that required much organization until retirement. I could not remember why I put certain things on my desk "to do" for three days following surgery. On the fourth day I remembered and quickly attached notes as reminders. However, I did not forget again. So long as you report that higher socio econ do not report, they will not. I am reporting that it happened to me as I stated. I am now in day five and curious to see if anything else pops up. Maybe we are just more patient or have more time and opportunity to wait out the inconveniences. What say you?
mistiblue95 on October 10, 2014:
I had surgery a week ago. now my arms and hands start itching and swell been taking benydrel but as soon as it wears off it starts again. how long does this last.
Marcelle Bell on August 30, 2014:
Well done article! I had anesthesia for a lengthy brain surgery (MVD for trigeminal neuralgia) last Fall and had a horrible experience with nausea and vomiting (more dry heaves) for about 24 hours afterwards. It was the worst part of my recovery. I wish I had read this beforehand although I do think I was given the anti-nausea meds by the anesthesiologist and surgeon after. I woke up absolutely burning up in the immediate recovery area when I came to, so badly that they were putting ice all over me. I still don't know why that would happen as I never did ask about it. It's nice to see doctors on here providing such great advice. Thank you!
naved007 on August 29, 2014:
One anesthesiologist I had gave me some very good advice once. If you still feel sleepy afterward, then keep on sleeping until it wears off. Don't fight drowsiness! I tried it and it was the best sleep I ever had.
Travis1782 on March 22, 2014:
I am a twenty year old male in very good health. A week ago I had my tonsils removed and had no problems after waking up from the anesthesia. Unfortunately I began bleeding severely on day five and had to have emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. After the second procedure I woke up shaking uncontrollably and was very confused what was going on. If I remember correctly I was given Demerol to calm me down. I stayed the night in the hospital and didn't have any complications. The next night, sleeping at home, I woke up shaking and tensing exactly as I did after waking up from the anesthesia. Can you tell if this is common or not and what could have caused this event?
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on February 27, 2014:
You have no idea how happy this makes me & how much it means. Makes it worth it to take the time to write & answer questions. I wish I could do it even more consistently! Thank you!! For coming back & letting me know.
Rachel Again on February 27, 2014:
Just had to thank you again... I had surgery in November, still chasing those pesky fibroids, this surgeon got them ALL! It's because of your article and the last great anesthesiologist that I knew I could talk to the anesthesiologist this time. I made it clear to every prep person I needed to talk to the anesthesiologist and together we made the decision to use propofol. The nurse had big problems getting the IV in, as usual, and the anesthesiologist helped distract me. Working together- everything went smooth. Never felt pain. Went for Jamaican food after surgery :)
threenorns on February 26, 2014:
i've had many (many!) surgeries requiring general anaesthesia (most common being cranio-facial surgery for harelip/cleft palate and D&C after miscarriage). i never get the nausea (yesterday, i had my gallbladder out and was eating a meditteranean wrap right after leaving the hospital).
what i get is, i wake up STARVING - i mean ***starving***, to the point i could seriously start chewing on my own arm (mom said that happened when i was a toddler - they had to put restraints on me). that's fine - i can eat (obviously).
the other thing is the breath. i mean, wth is with the breath? it's been over 24hrs and still i'm getting anaesthetic smell and dizziness when i cough or take a deep breath.
Sondra Rochelle from USA on February 07, 2014:
It is interesting that you wrote this right now because I just had a major "go round" with my pain management doctor because his anesthesia people have been using Fentanyl with me, despite the fact that I have asked them directly not to do so due to the fact that this stuff really has a bad after affect on me. WHAT can they be thinking?
dylan on February 07, 2014:
after having upper teeth pulled i was sneezing and now have runny nose, is this from oxygen in my nose when will it get batter
Christin from Sioux Falls, SD on January 09, 2014:
In November 2012 I had anesthesia administered 9 times over a period of 3 weeks (for ECT). Fortunately, I did not experience any of the side effects you have researched and listed. I understand confusion and memory loss are very common with ECT (thankfully, I did not experience that either).
After the third treatment I had, upon waking from the anesthesia I could not breathe! It was one of the most frightening moments of my life.
Prior to the following treatment the doctors administered some other type of anesthesia so I wouldn't wake up gasping for air. The doctors said that not being able to breathe after anesthesia is not common.
What exactly caused this to happen?
Great article and thank you for sharing it!
Jenn-Anne on December 28, 2013:
Interesting hub! I had surgery last month and over-all had very few side effects from the anesthesia. However, it did seem to take my body a while to get back into a normal rythm again - I just didn't feel like myself for several weeks. I don't know how much of that is because of the anesthesia and how much was a normal part of the healing process. Thanks for sharing your insight and expertise - voted up!
mhastings72 on December 12, 2013:
I had a Sleeve Gatrectomy 8 days ago. The past couple of days I have had these spells of getting very sleepy, and feeling very drugged. Arms feel very heavy and like I can't control them, slurred speech, unbalanced, just feel like I'm drugged. Would this be an after effect of anesthesia? How long does anesthesia stay in your body?
CeraHoff on December 04, 2013:
So I had shots in my lower back for pain, and they used an IV and called it 'Conscious sedation'. I woke up in the night with terrible heartburn, and it's still here this morning. Could it be from this procedure? Heartburn is kind of a rarity for me. Thanks.
Hester Prynne from Lemoore, California on November 03, 2013:
Is this the right place to ask a question? I had a total hip replacement five years ago. I have severe sleep apnea and asthma. I woke up 2 days after the surgery. Also I was afraid I could not breathe. I asked for something for anxiety and then was hallucinating and delusional for days. Could you shed any light on this?
Patient. on September 19, 2013:
I went in to get four wisdom teeth removed and when I woke up they only had done two, and left a huge whole on the bottom where they attempted to remove a third one when I became combative. I'm an 18 year old female with no history of "gang related violence". Needless to say they were very rude to me when I woke up and apologized and they told me to find somewhere else to go because I was a danger to be worked on in their office. I was given 15mg of anesthetics during the procedure.
Robin Bull from Moore, Oklahoma on July 22, 2013:
I dealt with the itching and confusion. When I had heart surgery, I kept waking up ON THE TABLE. When I was being wheeled to recovery the doctor looked at me and said, "Don't worry. When you REALLY wake up, you won't remember this." Yeah, it's been 11 years. I still remember.
lesliebyars on July 19, 2013:
This is so interesting and a wealth of information. I voted up and interesting!
Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on July 13, 2013:
Great article. Thank You Daughter or Maat for bringing it to my attention. I am rummaging through synapses and neurotransmitters seeking discovery. I had a thoracotomy of the right lung back in '06. I do not know what occurred or inquired regarding the operating room. I remember in the waiting area before surgery with many other patients they gave me a shot and said I will fade and I did. They did the prep work. I remember the conversation of the nurses like a hazy dream. That did affect me.
I remember awakening and I had one sock one foot and the other was gone. My sister and her husband were standing at the foot of the gurney. I asked them to give me my sock back. Then I think I faded again. My next memory was in the ICU I believe and hooked up to stuff.
The odd part is I have a blank spot of either no memory or as termed a cheesecloth effect for near two or more months. I just have simply an inability to recall for about a few days before the surgery back for a month to two months. I did have an early amnesia experience back in '78 two and the retrograde experience was years. Not sure if those two correlate or not.
I don't remember any sickness. I seem to remember I had a mask or nostril tube in ICU until a point. I was quezzy when they made me walk around the ICU center and balanced myself against the wall for a few days. After transferred to a hospital and later discharged I was more hyperactive, but I attributed that to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and hypomania, so not sure if a side effect of not.
Great article TahoeDoc! And, thank you for the experience of sharing. I think it did help with stuff I am going through today. Awesome . . .
Melissa Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 13, 2013:
I love your hubs! The last time I had general anesthesia, I ended up with a migraine that lasted four days. Lortab didn't touch it, and they wouldn't give me anything else. My neck muscles were also achy which I think is what triggered the migraine (most of my migraines come from my neck). Great hub, voted up and shared!
Alissa on July 11, 2013:
Hello there! I just was looking around on the Internet at about 3:00am due to not being able to sleep. I just had my wisdom teeth pulled this morning and it was the first time I've ever been "put under" for anything so I am definitely blessed thus far! I found this Hub to see if any questions or topics had been covered due to the issue of having problems sleeping after receiving anesthesia. I have been thoroughly impressed with your knowledge and expertise and feel better knowing that in a few short days time I will be back to normal! Thank you for taking the time to answer questions in a very thorough manner! Any patient would be lucky and blessed to have you as their anesthesiologist!
Connie Lake on July 10, 2013:
I had surgery 24 hours ago. They had a hard time waking me up. I'm still very sedated and in a fog. How long will this last?
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on May 26, 2013:
Christine- I'm not sure I have a great explanation for you that the cardiac testing wasn't able to find. I have seen people have severe vasovagal reactions (including something called the Jarrish-Bezold reaction) both under anesthesia, during surgery and after it. It doesn't have to be at the time of an injection, either. But, it usually is related to some event- needle, nerves, reaction to some other sensation on the body, changing position (standing up, especially if dehydrated). It's possible that the anesthetics and dehydration make you more prone to have these reactions and lower the threshold for some usually innocent stimulus to set it off.
Other than that, it would be hard to say what causes this. The fact that it happened twice warrants more investigation or a question to your primary doctor, in my mind, just to be cautious. See if your primary doctor has any suggestions- for example, was the circulation to your brain checked (carotid ultrasound) with the heart testing. Would a neurologist be useful for some kind of testing to see if there is a nervous system reaction? Has you thyroid been checked? Blood chemistries?
Usually, the sleep apnea causes strange things (like arrhythmias) to happen during sleep, if and while the oxygen is low. Severe sleep apnea over a long period of time can cause more prevalent and long-lasting changes. Heart rate and electrical conduction can definitely be affected over time.
I would ask your primary doctor for your next move. It sounds like the first event was in the presence of health care practitioners. Ask for any records they have that recorded the event - notes, tracings if they have them from the EKG (usually they aren't captured/printed, sadly).
It's quite possible this will be determined to be a severe vasovagal reaction (I had a patient with this not long ago and his heart rate went to 20). If so, there are medications (robinul, for example) you can get prior to another surgery/anesthesia to keep your heart from slowing down if that is the problem.
I haven't even asked if you are taking any medicines. Some meds, such as beta-blockers or other blood pressure medicines, can make this more likely to happen.
Good luck to you and let me know how it goes when you talk to your doc.
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on May 26, 2013:
Christine on May 25, 2013:
Thank you for your great answers to so many people!
5 years ago I had a tubal ligation with twilight anesthesia. Everything went well and I was ready to get up and go home, when suddenly my heart stopped and I awoke approximately 1 mintue later with about 8 people standing around my bed shouting at me (scary!). They were ready to start CPR and use the defibrillator, but fortunately I came around without such help. After several heart tests over the next week or so, it was determined that there was nothing wrong with me. I had received a toradol shot just prior to the heart-stopping incident and they ended up labeling it an extreme vasovagal syncope reaction (based on my history of sometimes passing out because I HATE needles).
Yesterday I had an endometrial ablation done with the same anesthesia. Because of the prior incident everyone agreed that skipping the toradol injection would be a great idea. Again, I was perfectly fine after the procedure. I got dressed and was wheeled out of the hospital to my husband. About 5 minutes after we left the hospital, the same exact thing happened. I passed out, eyes rolled back, completely unresponsive and weak or no pulse. This time it lasted around 2 minutes and I woke up with him shouting at me (scary again!). It was so weird because both times I was fine for a good half-hour after the surgery, then my heart quit and I spent the next few hours groggy, nauseus and miserable.
Clearly this was not a vasovagal reaction to an injection because the injection never occurred yesterday. Could it have anything to do with the possibility that I have sleep apnea? I've not been diagnosed, but I meet all the internet criteria. Do you have any idea about what could have happened? Any advice would be great...thanks!!
Yolanda S on May 13, 2013:
I had my gall bladder removed last week, and during my post-op, I had a very severe reaction to the anesthesia. I woke up yelling, trying to stand on the bed but what made it worst was that the Anesthesiologist along with two nurses were laughing at my reaction, not trying to calm me down, it continued when i was taken to my room, the nurse let me crawl from the post-op bed to my hospital bed, the whole time I was telling him it wasn't funny and to help, he made a small move to help but it was my assigned room nurse that came in and helped me calm down.
Since then I have had some very severe body aches not just from the surgery but I think from all the jumping and crawling around I did. I have had several surgeries so I am pretty familiar with the "common" side effects, nothing like this.
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on April 26, 2013:
I had angallbladder removed 5 days ago. Right after the surgery my co2 levels dropped to below 80. A week later and after 5 days in the hospital they are back up to 94-98%. Could this have been the anesthesia? I've heard so many guesses it has me concerned I have greater issues. Should I just rule this as a post surgery fluke that lasted 5 days?
It's really hard to even guess without knowing more about you or the events before, during and after your surgery. There are some general factors that can cause oxygen (I assume you meant o2 and not co2) to drop after gall bladder surgery. These include pain and pain medicines, obesity, sleep apnea, aspiration pneumonia, difficulty reinflating part of a lung due to either the breathing tube/ventilator or due to pressure put on the lung from the gas put in the abdomen for laparoscopy, inability to take a deep breath related to all of the above or other factors...
Ask your surgeon at your follow up visit what they decided was the main cause. There are just too many variables and potential factors to have any idea without the whole story. Sorry I can't give more insight and I hope that you are feeling better!!
Lori on April 25, 2013:
I had angallbladder removed 5 days ago. Right after the surgery my co2 levels dropped to below 80. A week later and after 5 days in the hospital they are back up to 94-98%. Could this have been the anesthesia? I've heard so many guesses it has me concerned I have greater issues. Should I just rule this as a post surgery fluke that lasted 5 days?
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on April 05, 2013:
I wouldn't say it's typical, but not abnormal either, meaning, I don't think it means anything is wrong or went wrong. There is just a very wide range of ways people react to the meds and procedures.
Hopefully, you are feeling back to normal soon and be glad to have that necessary but not widely-loved :) procedure over with.
Take care and thanks for visiting!
P.ayers on April 05, 2013:
I had an endoscopy done Tuesday...after I was wired to the hilt. couldn't sleep . On Wednesday and Thursday I slept a lot. Today I woke up at 7 am and at 8 am I went back to sleep and slept till 2 pm.. is this common?
AnnieLightning from Tauranga, New Zealand on December 29, 2012:
Thank you very much TahoeDoc - so lovely of you to give your time when you must be so busy!
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on December 29, 2012:
Yes, I think that would be the only way to know for sure. Let me know if you do find out as I'm curious too :) Plus, it would be good for you to know in the future!
MRIGUY1000 on December 29, 2012:
Thank you for your quick response. I'm assuming that the following statement "If you actually felt giddy, it's likely there was one or more of those drugs used too." was referring to versed, nitrous oxide and propofol. I've had versed and nitrous oxide on previous occasions and did not experience anything like the effect I wrote about. Based on what you said about titrated propofol, I could see how it might lessen the chances I'd wake up angry, but I don't see how it would explain the profound feeling of happiness I experienced. Just to be clear, I never "wake up swinging". That would be my son Jake when he was 4. My son Josh woke up crying at the same age. I'm just angry, grouchy or in a bad mood, but not violent. The feeling of happiness I felt was so intense and unlike anything I have ever felt before that it leads me to believe it was induced by a very specific action taken by the anesthesiologist. I guess the only way to resolve this is to contact him and see if he has an explanation, Thank you again for your help.
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on December 29, 2012:
I often hear that people have a history of waking that way. Men, often those in the military, law enforcement or jail wake up swinging.
When I hear this, I tell the patient a few things. First, I talk to them quite a lot. I tell them to get used to the sound of my friendly :) voice. When they hear me at the end of the operation, they will recognize it and 'do what I say' (my joke) and wake up nice and calm. This is a small factor, but one that probably contributes to a smoother wake up in some way.
The more important thing I do is to let the wake up happen more gradually. I might give some extra medications like the sedative that is often given preoperatively (midazolam, Versed). Propofol titrated in very small amounts as the patient is waking up, also helps to smooth and slow the wakeup so that you can gradually regain consciousness and remember where you are and that there is no threat.
It is also possible that you woke up on nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as another agent to ease you back to consciousness. Usually, the effects of that are pretty short-lived though.
Usuallly, it's a combination of psychological factors and chemical/medicinal ones that make the difference. I have found that just reassuring the patient and then telling them ahead of time (I like to do it when they are going to sleep too- more suggestible) that they will wake up happy will lead to a better wake up.
If you actually felt giddy, it's likely there was one or more of those drugs used too. Glad it was a better experience for you!!
MRIGUY1000 on December 29, 2012:
Hello Doc and thank you for providing such a great service. My name is David, I'm 52 and had cervical surgery two weeks ago. The surgery went well and I'm recovering nicely. I've been told that in the past I'm angry when I wake up from surgery. My wife told the anesthesiologist this prior to this last surgery. He said something like "I'll take care of that". It was something a long the lines like he was going to do something to reduce or avoid it happening. When I woke up I was extremely happy, giddy even. I can't say I've ever felt anything like it. This went on for what seemed like hours but had to be at least about an hour. My wife was there and I kept thanking her for staying with me. I couldn't stop saying how happy I was. Do you have any idea what the anesthesiologist gave me to cause this result?
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on December 26, 2012:
Likely, the sedative made you start to feel like you were drifting off. Then as you are breathing oxygen, other medicines are given in your intravenous line that make you go all the way to sleep. So, it's possible you were breathing oxygen like he said, but were getting the anesthesia induction agents (I call them 'all the way to sleep medicines' for my patients) in the IV.
Glad it went well.
TahoeDoc (author) from Lake Tahoe, California on December 26, 2012:
I am so glad to hear this went well knowing how anxious you were. Thank you so much for reporting back and letting me know. Happy Holidays.