Have you ever had surgery? If so, you may have been given anesthesia to help you relax and fall asleep. But what happens when the surgery is over, and it’s time to wake up? How long does it take to wake up from anesthesia? This is a question that many people have, and the answer can vary depending on the individual. This blog post will discuss everything you need to know about anesthesia and how long it takes to recover from it. We will also provide some tips for making the recovery process smoother.
- Types of Anesthesia
- How to prepare for the Anesthesia
- What happens during Anesthesia?
- When will the Anesthesia wear off?
- Side effects of Anesthesia
- Complications and Risks of Anesthesia
Anesthesia: An Overview
Anesthesia is a medical treatment that keeps you from feeling pain during procedures or surgery. The medications used to block pain are called anesthetics. Different types of anesthesia work in different ways. Some anesthetic medications numb certain parts of the body by blocking sensory/pain signals from nerves to the centers of the brain. These are peripheral nerves that connect the spinal cord to the rest of your body. Anesthesia can induce sleep through more invasive surgical procedures, like those within the head, chest, or abdomen.
Types of Anesthesia
Depending on the procedure and type of anesthesia needed, your healthcare provider may deliver the anesthesia via:
- Inhaled gas.
- Injection, including shots or intravenously (IV).
- Topical (applied to skin or eyes) liquid, spray, or patch.
The anesthesia medications your healthcare provider uses depend on the type and scope of the procedure. Options include:
- Local anesthesia: This treatment numbs a small section of the body. Examples of procedures in which local anesthesia could be used include cataract surgery, a dental procedure, or skin biopsy. You’re awake during the process.
- Regional anesthesia: This type of anesthesia blocks pain in a more significant part of your body, such as a limb or everything below your chest. You can be conscious during the procedure or have sedation in addition to the regional anesthetic. Examples include an epidural to ease the pain of childbirth or during a cesarean section (C-section), a spinal for hip or knee surgery, or an arm block for hand surgery.
- General anesthesia: This treatment makes you unconscious and insensitive to pain or other stimuli. General anesthesia is used for more invasive surgical procedures on the head, chest, or abdomen.
- Sedation: Sedation relaxes you to the point where you will have a more natural sleep but can be easily aroused or awakened. Light sedation can be prescribed by the person performing your procedure or together with a regular nurse if they both have the training to provide moderate sedation. Examples of light or moderate sedation procedures include cardiac catheterization and some colonoscopies. An anesthesia professional provides deep sedation because your breathing may be affected with the stronger anesthetic medications, but you will be more asleep than with light or moderate sedation. Although you won’t be completely unconscious, you are not as likely to remember the procedure.
How to prepare for the Anesthesia
You’ll meet with your anesthesiologist before the procedure. They’ll ask about your medical history and what medicines you take.
Get a detailed assessment.
Let them know if you:
- Have any allergies
- Have a health condition, including high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, sleep apnea, or thyroid disease
- Have asthma, COPD, bronchitis, or other breathing problems
- Smoke, drink alcohol, or take street drugs
- Take NSAIDs, steroid medicines, insulin, or oral hypoglycemics
- Have numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
- Have bleeding problems
- Are pregnant
- had an adverse reaction to anesthesia in the past
Acknowledge your doctors and procedure
Ask your anesthesia doctor any questions you have about your surgery or the medicine you’ll get. Make sure that you’re comfortable with your anesthesia team and know what to expect before your operation.
Know what to stop
Ensure your healthcare provider has a current list of the medications and supplements (vitamins and herbal medications) you take. Certain drugs can interact with anesthesia or cause bleeding and increase the risk of complications. You should also:
- Avoid food and drinks for eight hours before going to the hospital unless directed otherwise.
- Even if it’s just one day before the procedure, quit smoking to improve heart and lung health. The most beneficial effects are seen with no smoking for two weeks before.
- Stop taking herbal supplements for one to two weeks before the procedure as directed by your provider.
- You may need to stop certain meds because they can make you bleed more during the operation, like blood thinners such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Avoid Viagra® or other medications for erectile dysfunction at least 24 hours before the procedure.
- It would help if you took particular (but not all) blood pressure medications with a sip of water as instructed by your healthcare provider.
What happens during Anesthesia?
What happens during anesthesia depends on what type is used:
General anesthesia: A patient who gets general anesthesia is completely unconscious. During general anesthesia, you will be out and unable to feel pain. They can’t feel any pain, are not aware of the surgery as it happens, and don’t remember anything from when they are “asleep.” Patients can get general anesthesia through an IV (into a vein) or inhale it through their nose and mouth. You may also have a machine breathe for you. A breathing tube is placed in their throat to help the person ventilate while they are under general anesthesia.
Regional anesthesia: This type of anesthesia is injected near a cluster of nerves in the spine. This makes a large area of the body numb and unable to feel pain. Regional anesthesia numbs a specific area of the body. You’ll be awake and able to answer questions during the procedure.
Local anesthesia: Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body (for example, a hand or patch of skin). It can be given as a shot, spray, or ointment. Local anesthetics are numbing agents placed directly into the area around the surgery. This type of anesthesia is used for more minor procedures, such as a biopsy or a hernia operation. You will be awake during the surgery but will not feel any pain.
No matter what type you get, you will be constantly checked by the anesthesia care team to make sure you’re comfortable and safe.
Before they give you anesthesia, your doctor or certified registered nurse anesthetist will work with you to ease any fears. Sometimes, a patient gets sedation before the IV is placed or anesthesia is given. This medicine, given by mouth or as a nasal spray, helps them relax and feel sleepy.
When will the Anesthesia wear off?
This is only for general and regional anesthesia since local anesthesia does not make you doze off. The length of time you are unconscious depends on how long your surgery lasts. Once it’s done, you’ll stop getting the anesthesia.
After your surgery, you’ll go to a Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) or recovery room to wake up. Nurses monitor your heart rate, breathing, and other vital signs for about 30 minutes. You might feel groggy and confused as you come out of the anesthesia. The drugs’ effects can take a few hours to fully wear off.
If you had local or regional anesthesia, the numb area would slowly feel again. You may feel some discomfort in the area. Depending on what medical procedure was done and if you were sedated, you might be able to go home within a few hours.
Side effects of Anesthesia
You may have some side effects, but most are minor and temporary. It depends on which type of anesthetic drugs you get.
Side effects from general anesthesia include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
Side effects from regional anesthesia include:
- Mild back pain
- Trouble peeing
- Bleeding under the skin where the medicine was injected
- Nerve damage (this is rare)
Complications and Risks of Anesthesia
Several more serious complications are associated with general anesthetics, but these are rare.
Possible serious complications and risks include:
- a serious allergic reaction to the anesthetic (anaphylaxis)
- waking up during your operation (accidental awareness), although the amount of anesthetic given will be continuously monitored to help ensure this does not happen
- death – this is very rare
Serious problems are more likely if you’re having major or emergency surgery, have any other illnesses, smoke, or overweight.
Your physician anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will discuss the risks before your operation. It would be best if you tried to stop smoking or drinking alcohol in the weeks before surgery, as doing so will reduce your risk of developing complications.
You may also be advised to lose weight and increase your activity levels in the weeks before surgery if you can. Doing this could reduce any possible risks or complications.
In most cases, the benefits of being pain-free during an operation outweigh the risks.