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General Anesthesia Side Effects

By Jennifer Eblin ; Updated July 27, 2017

General anesthesia is a procedure where a tube is placed down a person’s throat prior to a surgery. A patient is given an anesthetic to help him sleep while the operation is performed. The procedure is done thousands of times every day, but some people will experience a few side effects later. These aren’t life threatening, but can be an annoyance.


Many people experience side effects following general anesthesia. These side effects typically appear within a few hours after the surgery or operation and resolve themselves on their own. People report feeling dehydrated and nauseous, sometimes feeling like they had been drinking the night before. They also claim to have headaches and pain in their muscles or joints. There are also some individuals who have a sore throat. These side effects are generally similar to the symptoms of the cold or flu.


The side effects of a general anesthesia usually appear just a few hours after surgery is complete. The feeling of a sore throat or dry throat is typically the first thing patients notice and this is the result of the tube used to help the patients breathe during the surgery. These side effects generally last a few hours, but can last for several days. Most patients treat their problems with over-the-counter medications that relieve the pain.

Unusual Side Effects

There are some patients who experience more unusual side effects as the result of this procedure. While these problems aren’t found in all patients, they are reported in a small number of cases. Nightmares are one of the more unusual problems and patients usually identify this problem the night immediately following the procedure. There are some patients who also report uncontrollable shaking or shivering along with the feeling of being cold or experiencing chills. Some people also experience vomiting after the anesthesia.


Doctors recommend patients tell them if they experience side effects lasting two weeks after the surgery or if the problems persist for over two weeks. Patients sometimes have problems keeping food down and notice blood or black spots in their stool or urine. Patients may lose a significant amount of weight or show symptoms of jaundice, such as a yellowing of their skin tone. Those who have unusual pains or feel weak should also seek medical attention.


Not everyone who has a general anesthesia will experience any side effects and there are a number of people who never have any problems. Those with serious health conditions and those who are taking certain medications increase their chances of experiencing the side effects. There is also a chance that some patients will experience only one or two of the side effects, but not all of those identified. Many people only feel a sore throat for a few hours and never have any other problems.

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