Common Questions and Answers
Are there side effects to anesthesia?
Major side effects can include sleepiness, irritability, nausea, vomiting, sore throat and hoarseness. These are usually self-limited and will typically go away within a few hours to a few days.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
All forms of anesthesia involve some risk; however major side effects and compilations are extremely rare. Specific risks according to the type of anesthesia you will receive follow:
- Headache. The most frequent complication of spinal anesthesia is known as a spinal headache. Today's spinal needles are specially designed to help prevent this complication and only a small percentage of patients develop it.
- Back Pain. Just laying in bed for a few days after surgery can cause back pain, regardless of the type of anesthesia you receive. Spinal anesthetics are frequently blamed for the development of chronic low back pain later in life. However, upon medical evaluation and in most cases, spinal anesthesia has not emerged as an important cause of chronic low back pain.
- Nerve Damage. While there have been rare cases of nervous system damage resulting in reduced sensation or strength following anesthesia, many of these resolve themselves spontaneously.
- Failed Anesthesia. Occasionally, a spinal anesthetic may fail to provide adequate anesthesia for a surgical procedure. This can occur because the surgery continues longer than anticipated, outlasting the effects of the anesthetic. In other cases, the spread of anesthesia may be non-uniform resulting in less than the desired block. When this occurs a surgeon will inject a local anesthetic or provide a general anesthetic if necessary.
- Dental Complications. Whenever an endotracheal tube is inserted into the trachea or windpipe (intubation) to deliver anesthesia, there may be a risk to teeth. Occasionally the jaw and facial structures of normal, healthy individuals may make intubation difficult. Additionally, individuals with unhealthy teeth or gums, caps or bridges may be at increased risk of tooth damage. Our experienced team works diligently to help ensure that this does not happen.
While local anesthetics are highly successful in delivering pain relief, occasional problems can occur. Along with the numbing effect they have on nerves, they also can interact with the brain and heart. Because of this, there are limits concerning how much local anesthetic medication can be administered safely. Additionally, epinephrine (adrenaline) is often added to the local anesthetic solution to constrict blood vessel and reduce blood flow to the area. This slows absorption and lowers the blood levels of the local anesthetic drug.
Will I experience nausea after surgery?
The nature of the surgery being performed together with individual factors such as age and gender affect the potential for nausea or vomiting. While this may be a concern, significant advances in monitoring techniques and medication greatly reduce these effects.
Why must I fast before receiving anesthesia?
Fasting prior to receiving anesthesia is an important precaution for comfort and safety. Since anesthetics relax the body and remove natural protective reflexes, recently ingested material may travel back up through the esophagus and become a potentially dangerous choking hazard. Our pre-operative team will discuss fasting and develop a plan especially for you.
Is it safe to fast if you have Diabetes?
Diabetic patients with concerns about pre-operative fasting and blood sugar levels will have this covered during their preoperative interview to assure their safety before, during and after their surgery.
What medications, if any should I take the morning of my surgery?
This should be discussed in your pre-operative interview. Generally, patients are instructed to take all medications for blood pressure and heart conditions and to bring asthma inhalers and medications with them.
If I elect to have spinal anesthesia will I have to lay flat for 12 hours and will my risk for post-anesthetic headache or other side effects increase?
Concurrent with significant advances in anesthetic medicines, advances in their delivery have also been made. Side effects have been greatly minimized by refinements in the size and shape of the needles used to administer spinal anesthetics. Because of this, bed rest is no longer required. Additionally, the chance of post-operative headaches and other side effects is similar to or less than the risks of general anesthesia.
What if I wake up during the operation?
Many patients ask about the possibility of waking during an operation. While this is very rare, there have been instances when it has occurred. Called “awareness”, it may occur just prior to the anesthetic taking effect or as a patient is emerging from anesthesia. In very rare situations it may occur during the surgery itself. Any concerns regarding this, can be addressed with your anesthesiologist during your pre-operative visit.
Will I get a headache after a spinal or an epidural?
The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid that is contained by a membranous structure referred to as the dura. Certain procedures like a diagnostic lumbar puncture (spinal tap), myelogram, spinal anesthesia etc., involve puncturing the dura. Occasionally, a small percentage of epidurals result in an unintentional or puncture of the dura. Occasionally, when a puncture occurs, a post-dural puncture headache may occur. Additional factors that may influence this include sex, pregnancy, age, and the size and type of needle used.
Can anesthesia cause breathing problems after surgery?
Some patients may experience breathing problems after surgery. This can result from pulmonary aspiration, atelectasis and pneumonia, residual muscle weakness, or may come from pre-existing conditions such as lung disease such as asthma or emphysema.