The Side Effects of Anesthesia

Anesthesia is an important part of the medical world. It is used before large procedures or surgeries to put patients to sleep to reduce pain and other side effects that are involved with surgical procedures. While anesthesia is beneficial in many ways, it does have several side effects that might change how people prepare for procedures that involved anesthesia. In this article, we will discuss about few side effects of anesthesia that often happen in many patients.

The Side Effects of Anesthesia

The Side Effects of Anesthesia

Here is what you need to know before you have surgery or a procedure requiring anesthesia.

Nausea or vomiting

Two of the biggest side effects goes together. This side effect of anesthesia can begin as close as a few hours or as long as a few days after a surgical procedure. The type of surgery, medications, or even too much motion can induce these side effects. However, not everyone experiences these two side effects after being under anesthesia either. A way to help prevent this side effect of anesthesia is by avoiding food and drink before your procedure and avoiding heavy meals for several hours after your procedure is over.

A headache

Typically, this side effect of anesthesia is most prominent after an IV sedation. When spinal fluid leaks out during the delivery of the regional anesthetic, similar to a spinal block or an epidural, it can cause a massive headache in the patient. It can occur just a few days after the procedure is completed. The headaches will eventually subside from the anesthesia, but until then you can speak with your physician about pain relievers for headaches.


A more common side effect of IV anesthesia is a hematoma. Some people might better understand this side effect as a bruise. Usually, this happens due to bleeding under the skin where the IV was injected for the anesthesia. Some people tend to bruise easier than others, which might leave a darker and more purple bruise after the IV is removed. A hematoma usually clears itself up after a few days or a few weeks, just like any other bruise, but if it remains longer than usual, it is advised to speak with your physician about the bruise and the cause.

Muscle Aches

This side effect of anesthesia is common with general anesthesia use because of the way that the drug and various medications work together to relax your muscles before and during surgery. When the procedure is done, and the body is waking up, the muscles can feel that bit of soreness when the muscles being to work properly again. This soreness essentially comes from the muscles lying still and relaxed for so long, but it is not a serious side effect of anesthesia. If the muscle aches continue after a few days of being post-op, you should speak with your doctor about the issue.

Postoperative Delirium

When one is regaining consciousness after a procedure using general anesthesia, and delirium occurs, the confusion is called postoperative delirium, and this side effect of anesthesia is most common in older patients. Typically, the confusion will come and go for a few days. An unfamiliar place like the hospital can worsen the symptoms as well, but surrounding the patient with familiar objects can help with the confusion.

Malignant Hyperthermia

This is a serious side effect as a direct result of general anesthesia, and it can occur during surgery. Usually, it is manifested by a quick fever combined with muscle contractions, and it is serious. People who have a history of malignant hyperthermia or a heat stroke should be sure to let the physician or the anesthesiologist know about it before the procedure. If you are concerned about this side effect before undergoing your procedure, you can always discuss your concerns with your physician before the procedure begins.


Another serious side effect of IV anesthesia is a pneumothorax. This effect is a direct result of the injection of anesthesia too close to the lungs. If the IV punctures the lungs, it can cause it to collapse, which requires a chest tube to re-inflate the lung. It is a serious side effect that could be life-threatening if not treated soon enough. Speaking with your physician and anesthesiologist about this possibility before your procedure is a great way to discuss your options.


If you are preparing to have a surgical or other procedure done that requires anesthesia, you should be aware of the side effects of anesthesia. While local anesthesia has very few and minor side effects, both IV anesthesia, and general anesthesia have various side effects that everyone should be aware of. These effects can vary from minor things to very serious things that can be life-threatening. There is little that can be done to prevent other than make your anesthesiologist aware of your health condition, medications, and past medical history. Being aware of the possible side effects is also a way to prepare for your procedure.

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Abby Drexler
Abby Drexler
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Abby Drexler, Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Premier Anesthesia. She often provides content for a variety of medical blogs. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 30, 2019

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