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Anesthesia - Topic Overview

What are the risks and complications of anesthesia?

Major side effects and other problems of anesthesia aren't common, especially in people who are in good health.

But all anesthesia has some risk. For example:

  • After general anesthesia heart problems, pneumonia, sore throat, or vomiting can occur.
  • With high doses of local anesthesia, the anesthetic can go into the rest of the body and affect your brain or heart.
  • After spinal anesthesia some people get headaches.

Your risk depends on the type of anesthesia you get, your age, your health, and how you respond to the medicines used. Some health problems, such as heart or lung disease, increase your chances of problems from anesthesia. Taking certain medicines, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs can also increase your chance of problems.

Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about the best type for you and will review risks, benefits, and other choices.

How can you prepare for anesthesia?

Your doctor or nurse will let you know what to do the night before and the day of the procedure. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Know when to stop eating and drinking. If you take any medicines regularly, ask your doctor or nurse about changes to your medicine routine for the day before or the day of your surgery.
  • Try to stay calm. Many people are nervous before they have anesthesia and surgery. Mental relaxation methods, such as guided imagery or meditation, can help you relax. And some medicines can help you relax.
  • Plan ahead for going home. Ask a friend or a family member to drive you home. Don't plan to drive yourself.

If your child is having surgery or a procedure, you can help him or her prepare. Let your child know what to expect. Be honest if he or she might feel pain. Be sure to tell your child that you will be close by.

What happens while you're under anesthesia and when you recover?

Before and during surgery, an anesthesia specialist will take charge of your comfort and safety. He or she will give you the anesthesia and closely monitor you. This means he or she will check your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and other vital body functions throughout the surgery. During surgery, the anesthesia specialist also will continue to give anesthesia to keep you free of pain.

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