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- Recovery after surgery
- Side effects of general anaesthetic
Side effects of general anaesthetic
General anaesthesia is very safe, but like any medical procedure, you may experience some side effects. Most side effects occur immediately after surgery and don’t last long. Tell your medical team if any of these side effects get worse or worry you.
|Nausea and vomiting||You may feel sick (nausea) or vomit after an anaesthetic, but this usually improves within a day or two. You may be given medicine to control this. Sometimes vomiting makes you feel better.|
|Chills and dizziness||Your body temperature often drops in the operating theatre and you may wake up shivering or feeling cold. Some people feel dizzy from the anaesthetic or because they are dehydrated. These side effects will be monitored in the recovery room.|
|Agitation||You might cry or feel restless and anxious when you wake up. Some people feel like their arms or legs are twitchy. This is a normal reaction.|
|Sore throat or hoarseness||The tube placed down your throat to help you breathe while you are asleep can leave you with a sore throat or a hoarse voice after it is removed. This should get better in a few days.|
|Mental effects||You may feel confused, groggy or “fuzzy” in the minutes or hours after you wake up, and you may not remember why you had surgery.|
Most people make a full recovery within a few hours. In some cases, this may take around 24 hours, particularly in elderly people and those who had memory problems before surgery.
Rarely, people have ongoing mental effects (such as fogginess or mild memory loss) for more than a week. This is called postoperative cognitive dysfunction. There is no evidence that anaesthesia worsens how the brain works (cognitive function) in the longer term.
You should not drive, operate complex equipment or sign important documents for at least 24 hours after a general anaesthetic.
Podcast for people living with cancer
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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