Surgery & Anesthesia Complications


A number of complications can arise during and after surgery no matter how invasive or noninvasive the procedure is. Some complications occur because of an infection, others occur because the body cannot handle the trauma of surgery. In a small percentage of patients, complications occur from the anesthesia itself.


There are three major types of anesthesia used for surgery. The most commonly used for a minor procedure, such as having a root canal, is a local anesthesia. Local anesthesia numbs the area that is to be worked on for a short period of time. Local anestethia is generally given by shot. The second type of anesthesia is regional anesthesia. Regional anesthesia numbs a particular area of the body. The most common type of regional anesthesia is an epidural. Finally, when a patient needs to be put to sleep for surgery, a general anesthesia is used. General anesthesia is given to the patient via an IV and is administered by a specialist known as an anesthesiologist.

Inability to Urinate

It's not uncommon for patients who are given anesthesia to have difficulty urinating after surgery. It's more common when a patient is given an epidural but it does happen with other types of anesthesia as well. Following surgery, doctors will not release a patient until they have urinated. Urination complications are not long term and, in most patients, the symptoms last for only a few hours. In more severe cases, patients may need to have a catheter inserted for a short period of time.


Some patients who are administered anesthesia may have a serious complication known as malignant hyperthermia. Malignant hyperthermia is condition that is hereditary and may lead to death if not treated quickly. When the anesthetic is given, the patient exhibits a rapid increase in body temperature. The increase in body temperature wrecks havoc on the musculature of the patient, causing it to break down.

Nerve Damage

Any type of anesthetic may cause moderate to severe nerve damage if it is administered into a nerve or if the needle damages a nerve close to the injection site. Nerve damage is not long term and goes away in the weeks after the surgery.

Sore Throat

When general anesthetic is used, a tracheal tube must be inserted to allow the patient to breath. When the tube is removed the patient may experience a sore or raw feeling in their throat or may not be able to speak normally until the irritation subsides. A sore throat usually lasts until the area heals which takes three to five days in most cases.

Anesthesia Awareness

One of the worst complications of anesthesia is known as anesthesia awareness. Patients who experience anesthesia awareness are not able to speak or move and lack any type of muscle control but are aware of their surroundings and the surgery. This occurs under general anesthesia when the paralytic component works but the part that puts the patient to sleep does not.

Severe Headache

Severe headaches may occur following a regional anesthetic. Severe headaches in those who receive an epidural happen because the needle can leave a hole in the spinal cord allowing spinal fluid to leak. These headaches can last indefinitely if the hole is not repaired. A blood patch is used to repair the injection site and stop the headaches.

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