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Anesthesia Side Effects

Anesthesia Side Effects

Anesthetics are administered to achieve temporary loss of sensation required to perform painful medical procedures. Although the risk involved is very low, the use of anesthetics is not devoid of side effects. The following article gives a brief overview of the possible side effects associated with local, regional and general anesthesia.
Palmira S
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Beautiful patient receives anaesthetic
Anesthesia refers to a temporary loss of sensation that is achieved through the administration of a set of drugs termed as anesthetics. It is characterized by amnesia, sedation, loss of skeletal muscle reflexes, and is useful to reduce pain, anxiety and stress that is experienced during surgeries and other medical procedures. Such an effect can be achieved through a single drug or a combination of drugs.
Depending on the scope of action, anesthesia is categorized into three major types -- general, regional and local. Given below are the side effects and complications associated with each of these.
Local Anesthesia
Local anesthetics are used to numb a particular part of the body, and is widely used in dermatological, dental and ENT (ear, nose and throat) procedures as well as biopsies. The side effects associated with the use of local anesthetics are:
  • Allergic rash
  • Muscle twitching
  • Inflammation at the site of application/injection
  • Tongue and lip numbness
  • Double vision
The following complications may arise if the concentration of local anesthetic in blood increases beyond a specific threshold.
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Coma
Regional Anesthesia
Regional anesthesia involves peripheral nerve blocks as well as spinal and epidural anesthesia. It is characterized by the loss of sensation in a specific region, namely the upper half or lower half of the body. The side effects associated with such anesthetic shots are:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling in lower extremities
  • Difficulty in coordinating movements
The possible severe complications include:
  • Low blood pressure
  • Backache
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Infection
  • Paraplegia
  • Dural puncture (dura is the outermost layer around the spinal cord)
  • Epidural hematoma (accumulation of blood in the epidural space)
General Anesthesia
General anesthesia affects the entire body, and is characterized by complete loss of consciousness. It is generally administered during major surgeries. Some of the common side effects experienced after gaining consciousness are:
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Shivering and chills
  • Temporary loss of memory
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Mild allergic reaction
In rare cases, severe complications may arise during or after the procedure. Some of these are:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Permanent nerve damage and paralysis
  • Death (extremely rare)
The use of anesthetics rarely leads to complications and extreme emergencies. However, it is very important that the concerned surgeons, anesthetists and experts be aware of the medical history of the patient including details concerning allergies, drug reactions, addictions as well as cardiac, respiratory and nervous system disorders, if any. This is essential to decide the appropriate type and dosage of anesthetic(s), so as to avoid any perioperative and postoperative emergencies.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.