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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, high doses of local and regional anesthetic can go into the rest of the body and affect your breathing, heartbeat, or blood pressure. Some people get headaches after spinal anesthesia.

Your specific risks depend 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 surgeon may 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. Your doctor will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before your surgery. If you take any medicines regularly, ask your doctor or nurse if you should take your medicines on 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 anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist 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.

When the procedure is complete, you will stop getting the medicine. How quickly the anesthesia wears off depends on the anesthetics and other medicines used and on your response to the medicines.

After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. A nurse will check your vital signs and any bandages and ask about how much pain you have. If you are in pain, don't be afraid to say so.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 30, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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