What are the risks of general anesthesia?


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1205 Geneva

Martin Tramèr
Head of Division

All medical procedures involve risks, even when they are performed by experts. The rate and severity of these risks depend on your state of health, age or general lifestyle.

The anesthesia techniques used are safe. The risks of unexpected and potentially life- threatening complications such as an allergy or severe heart or lung problem are extremely small. All necessary measures will be taken to prevent and treat any complications in the best possible way.

However, the following complications could occur:

  • Nausea and vomiting: this occurs after your awakening. Despite the use of new anesthetic drugs, these effects are still common, but are now easier to treat.
  • Sore throat, hoarseness, swallowing difficulties: these effects sometimes appear when a device has been inserted into the throat or trachea to help you breathe during anesthesia. They usually disappear within a few days. On very rare occasions, they require further attention due to damage to the vocal cords.
  • Dental damage: this can be caused by the procedures required to fit the breathing assistance device.
  • Nerve, muscle and skin damage: this is caused by extended periods spent lying on the operating table, which leads to compression. These effects cause temporary numbness or paralysis that is reversible in nearly all cases.
  • Memory problems, decreased concentration: this sometimes occurs in the days following the operation and disappears spontaneously.
  • Awakening during the operation: this is very rare, but can remain in your memory and should be reported to the anesthesia team.

To improve your safety, please report the following upon your arrival in the operating room:

  • Any permanent dental appliances worn and any fragile teeth.
  • Any joint pain or position that is normally uncomfortable for you.

Note : there may be other risks if additional treatments or monitoring measures are required. Likewise, the risk connected with the operation itself should be discussed with the surgeon.

If you notice or are concerned by any persistent symptom, make sure to talk with the anesthesia team, your surgeon or your own physician.

Last update : 02/12/2019