General Anesthesia and its Potentially Dangerous Side Effects

Surgeries are done every single day throughout the world.  No one even thinks twice about having an appendix or gall bladder removed anymore.  People worldwide have dental work done and are anesthetized, cataracts are removed, even when cosmetic surgery is done, most people consider that their surgeon is competent and familiar with the procedure or surgery, but rarely does anyone ever ask about the credentials or the anesthetist or whether or not the anesthesia has dangerous side effects.  It’s simply taken for granted that many surgeries are successful, but anesthetic can pose some serious threats to your health and it can even kill you. 

General anesthesia is a state of unconsciousness where you lack memory of your surgery; you cannot move during surgeries, should not experience pain or discomfort, although many people have.  Dangerous changes to the heart rate and blood pressure can occur and while combinations of anesthesia-inducing medications or gasses are used to provide comfort and safety, you really are not really, all that safe.  “All types of anesthesia, including general anesthesia, are a risk”, according to the East Tennessee Ambulatory Surgery Center (ETASC).  “Risks are greater for those people with serious medical conditions.” 

These gasses and chemicals will usually be administered intravenously, through intubation, inhaled or breathed, sometimes, intramuscular injections are used, to relax you and help you to sleep so that you do not feel pain or view the procedure.  You will most likely not recall what is going on unless it is a type of surgery requiring you need to be awake.  The anesthesia medicine may be accompanied by other medication.  Sometimes pain relievers or narcotics accompany the anesthesia, to help keep your heart rate and blood pressure under control. 

Your anesthesiologist should inquire as to whether you have any underlying medical conditions such as, heart disease, stroke or a family history of them.   High blood pressure, allergies, immune system diseases, emphysema, lung disease or neurological diseases like epileptic seizures.  Tell them whether you have any eating disorders or a history of smoking, asthma, endocrine or thyroid disorders or not.  If you suffer from arthritis or other diseases that can affect movement of the limbs or diabetes, you should discuss them with the surgical team before being anesthetized.  You should be completely honest and concise with both the anesthetist and your surgeon before being anesthetized in order to help prevent serious hazards.  

Factors that affect general anesthesia are your health, medical conditions, the type of surgery you are about to have and the types of anesthetics that will be used during the surgery.  While minor side effects are common, such as, nausea, vomiting, itchiness, sore throat, muscle aches, blurred vision, double vision or other visual problems.  If you have shivering, trembling or muscle pain, headache, even migraine should be reported to your doctor immediately.  Whether you have dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness or faintness after the surgery should be discussed with your doctor.  Tell the doctor if you experience nausea or vomiting, nightmares, mood or other mental changes, as they are usually not serious and should get better within 24 hours after the surgery is over. 

Rarer, but more serious side effects and reactions include dental damage, remembering parts or all of the surgery, pain in the stomach or abdomen, back or leg pain, severe nausea or black or bloody vomit.  Other side effects like unusual tiredness, weakness, weakness in the hands arms or fingers, weight loss or loss of appetite,  changes in the amount of urine; pale or yellow skin or jaundice, changes in heart rate or rhythm, heart attacks, strokes and even death.  This makes it imperative that you, your anesthesiologist, your doctor and surgeon all know your overall health conditions including medications sensitivities, allergies and any reactions you’ve had to medication or anesthetics in the past before you ever go into the surgery. 

Your surgical medical team, including the anesthetist, should be well trained in the administration of these gasses and chemicals and they should be able to present you with credentials such as diplomas, degrees, licenses or certification of their proper training.  It they can’t, do not let them touch you.  Ask for proof of their education and training before you sign that consent for surgery.

Interactions with medications, herbs or other substances you have used can occur and may result in more serious side effects, so make sure that you tell your doctors about any prescription or OTC medications, herbs, vitamin supplements or street drugs that you are taking, for safety’s sake.