Complications of General Anesthesia

The likelihood of any complications occurring depends on your preoperative medical condition, the nature of your operation, and the anesthetic technique used. Complications can occur in the operating room, the recovery room, or while recuperating in the hospital or at home.

Minor complications such as sore throat, headache, hoarseness, drowsiness, muscle aches, and fatigue are common for the first several days following surgery.

Other potential complications include nausea and vomiting. These occur more frequently in children, in those who have experienced nausea and/or vomiting with previous anesthetics, and those who are susceptible to motion sickness. People with diabetes, are obese or pregnant are prone to experiencing nausea and vomiting. If any of these characteristics apply to you, this information should be brought to the attention of your anesthetist.

Aspiration pneumonia (inhaling vomit into the lungs) is rare but can be a serious complication of anesthesia. Taking certain precautions may minimize your risk of aspiration. First, we ask you not to EAT or DRINK anything for a certain time period before your surgery. Second, we may give you medications prior to surgery to reduce the occurrence of nausea and vomiting. Additionally, we may use an endotracheal tube (breathing tube) to protect your lungs and to assist with breathing.

Other rare complications include physical injury (chipped teeth), muscle cramps, allergic reactions, airway blockage, lack of oxygen (hypoxia), low blood pressure (hypotension), high blood pressure (hypertension), irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), heart attack (myocardial infarction) and death.

Awareness under anesthesia is rare but can also occur.