Modern anesthesia is quite safe. If a person is having anesthesia when they undergo surgery nowadays, they are closely monitored by the anesthesiologist and the operating room staff. Still, when they wake up they should expect some side effects. Fortunately, they do wear off quickly.
1. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting tend to be more common in some operations than in others. People who feel queasy after they wake up from anesthesia have usually had surgery on their reproductive organs, their abdomen or their ear, throat or nose. Some have had eye surgery or have been under anesthesia for a long time. This is not why doctors tell their patients to fast before their operation! That’s done so the lungs don’t aspirate the patient’s stomach contents while they are under. Fasting actually makes post operative nausea worse, and the patient should have a bite to eat when they are able to after the surgery.
2. Dry Mouth, Sore Throat and Hoarseness
This is a consequence of the anesthetician making sure the patient can breathe and that the food in the stomach doesn’t end up in the patient’s respiratory system. To do this they may fit the patient with a face mask and a Guedel airway tube, a laryngeal mask airway, a tracheal tube or a gastric tube. These tubes can irritate the person’s throat or even damage it a bit. Also, the gas and the drugs used to put the patient to sleep can also dry out their throat and mouth.
Some people’s temperature drops when they are under anesthesia, and they find that they wake up shivering. The anesthesia itself can slightly disrupt the body’s ability to thermoregulate, and the operating room itself can be cool. Shivering is not dangerous and only lasts 20 minutes or so.
4. Urinary Hesitancy
The temporary inability to urinate after surgery is one of the most common side effects of general anesthesia. It is called POUR, or post-operative urinary retention. This happens because the anesthesia suppresses the workings of the detrusor muscle of the bladder. People most at risk for POUR are men over 50 who are undergoing a long surgery. Again, POUR is temporary.
Of all the post-operative side effects, constipation is one of the more uncomfortable. Again, it is partially caused by the anesthesia itself and narcotics given for pain, which slow down the contractions of the large intestine. Easing constipation is one reason the doctor has the patient up and walking around soon after surgery. It is a good idea to buy a stool softener before an operation so it can be there when the patient gets home.
Some people do not have any of these side effects, while some have a couple and others have all of them.