Recovering From Anesthesia
Recovery from anesthesia occurs as the effects of the anesthetic medicines wear off and your body functions begin to return. Immediately after surgery, you will be taken to a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), often called the recovery room. There, nurses will care for and observe you. A nurse will check your vital signs and bandages and ask about your pain level.
How quickly you recover from anesthesia depends on the type of anesthesia you received, your response to the anesthesia, and whether you received other medicines that may prolong your recovery. As you begin to awaken from general anesthesia, you may experience some confusion, disorientation, or difficulty thinking clearly. This is normal. It may take some time before the effects of the anesthesia are completely gone.
Your age and general health also may affect how quickly you recover. Younger people usually recover more quickly from the effects of anesthesia than older people. People with certain medical conditions may have difficulty clearing anesthetics from the body, which can delay recovery.
Some of the effects of anesthesia may persist for many hours after the procedure. For example, you may have some numbness or reduced sensation in the part of your body that was anesthetized until the anesthetic wears off completely. Your muscle control and coordination may also be affected for many hours following your procedure. Other effects may include:
- Pain. As the anesthesia wears off, you can expect to feel some pain and discomfort from your surgery. In some cases, additional doses of local or regional anesthesia are given to block pain during initial recovery. Pain following surgery can cause restlessness as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure. If you experience pain during your recovery, tell the nurse who is watching you so that your pain can be relieved.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may have a dry mouth and/or nausea. Nausea and vomiting are common after any type of anesthesia. It is a common cause of an unplanned overnight hospital stay and delayed discharge. Vomiting may be a serious problem if it causes pain and stress or affects surgical incisions. Nausea and vomiting are more likely with general anesthesia and lengthy procedures, such as surgery on the abdomen, the middle ear, or the eyes. In most cases, nausea after anesthesia does not last long and can be treated with medicines called antiemetics.
- Low body temperature (hypothermia). You may feel cold and shiver when you are waking up. A mild drop in body temperature is common during general anesthesia, because the anesthetic reduces your body’s heat production and affects the way your body regulates its temperature. Special measures are often taken during surgery to keep a person’s body temperature from dropping too much (hypothermia).