After anesthesia, feelings of both physical and mental fatigue are common. Recognizing the symptoms is the best way to rule out other possible causes of fatigue and will allow you to anticipate when you can expect relief and the best ways to alleviate these symptoms.
There are two main types of anesthesia: regional and general. Regional anesthesia is generally used when surgery is being performed on a specific area of the body. General anesthesia is used for more extensive surgical procedures and involves putting the patient into a deep sleep via the use of sleep-inducing drugs.
Particularly in patients who have undergone general anesthesia, feelings of fatigue and muscle aches are common symptoms. Interruption of the normal sleep cycle leading to insomnia at night is also common. The time that it takes a patient to recover completely from the effects of sedation depends on the type used, her age and her general health. In most cases, younger patients recover more quickly than older ones.
Feelings of mental fatigue or “cloudiness” are also common. This can include feelings of forgetfulness, disorientation, trouble making decisions, and in general, decreased mental alertness.
Physical and mental symptoms usually disappear on their own within a few days to a week or two. Some patients who have undergone major surgery, particularly older patients, report feelings of mental fatigue or cloudiness lasting as long as a month or more. According to Harvard Medical, cognitive difficulties occur in about 25 percent of patients over age 60, approximately a week after surgery.
The best course of treatment is to let the symptoms of fatigue run their course. Most medical professionals recommend sticking to a normal sleep routine whenever possible and avoiding naps during the day, which can interfere with sleep at night. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of daily exercise whenever possible can also help to alleviate symptoms.