Medical Surgical Procedures: How Long Does It Take for Anesthesia to Wear Off

Anesthesia makes a person go delirious. Yes, you read it right! Check out any video of a person getting their wisdom tooth extracted after taking anesthesia and you will witness that the person is feeling pretty unusual and on the edge of losing consciousness.

A lot of surgeries cannot be performed without anesthesia but the question remains, how long does it take for anesthesia to wear off?

If you have experienced the effect of anesthesia yourself, you will realize that it does take quite some time to get back to normalcy but to be honest, the effects of anesthesia differ from person to person.

Let’s find out how long it takes for the anesthesia’s effects to wear off.

How long does it take for anesthesia to wear off?

General anesthesia is administered in surgeries and it takes almost an hour for the effects to wear off. Sometimes it can take more depending from person to person.

Key points to remember after anesthesia administration
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It has been noticed that the effects of general anesthesia administered intravenously (IV) may take more than an hour for effects to subside as compared to the other way of anesthesia.

The experts are of the opinion that the dizziness and the grogginess of the anesthesia might fade away in 2 to 3 hours but the anesthetic medicine would remain in the body for quite some time till it is flushed out itself.

 The doctors advise the patient to drink excessive amounts of water so that the medicine is flushed out of the system on its own. There is no evidence to back that anesthesia gets flushed out from the body on its own but the doctors say that lets the body do its job on its own.

Kinds of Anesthesia

There are three different kinds of anesthesia. They are:

  • General Anesthesia: This is the kind that makes the patient unconscious so that he cannot feel any kind of pain during the surgical process. The anesthetic medicine is administered in the form of vapor or gas and the patient breathes it in through a tube or mask. General anesthesia can also be administered intravascularly.
  • Local Anesthesia: This is the kind of anesthesia in which the physician numbs a small part of the body where the surgical procedure needs to be performed. This anesthesia is administered by using an injection or in some cases it is rubbed onto the skin of the patients. Mostly minor surgical procedures require local anesthesia like the extraction of a mole.
  • Regional Anesthesia: In this kind of anesthesia, the general area of the body is numbed where the surgery is supposed to be performed. The doctor can inject the anesthetic medicine into several nerves at once. A classic example of regional anesthesia is an epidural.

An epidural is administered on the spinal cord of the body to numb the lower part of the body in surgeries like C-sections etc. if the surgery is going to be prolonged then regional anesthesia is administered to the patient along with a sedative which is given to the patient through an IV. This is medically called “twilight sleep.” In this phase, the patient is not actually asleep but he is not completely awake also.

Key points to remember after anesthesia administration

1. Do not start exercising right away

The doctors and physicians do not recommend that patients who have just been administered general anesthesia start exercising immediately. Apart from anesthesia being still in the body, there are also a lot of other limitations related to mobility and other physical movements post-surgery which need to be acknowledged by the patient.

The physician will determine and further communicate the limitations and restrictions on the patient post-surgery and also give a timeframe from when they can start exercising back.

If it is a minor surgery like a tooth extraction or filling of a cavity, then there will not be any kind of restriction prescribed by the dentist but still, to be on the safe side it is advised to wait for 24 hours before resuming any kind of intensive exercising.

2. Varied diet post-anesthesia administration

Anesthesia is administered to the patient depending upon the kind of surgery. If the surgery is going to last hours, then a higher dose of anesthetic medicine is administered and vice versa.

The physician will advise his patient to wait for a few hours before drinking or eating anything till the effects of the anesthesia have subsided relatively. Eating or drinking immediately after surgery might cause extreme nausea.

How long does it take for anesthesia to wear off
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The patients post-surgery are told to start with a liquid diet first and later on resume regular eating and drinking.

Once a patient is back to normalcy then there is no particular diet to be followed and the patient can resume whatever suits best according to their health condition.

The patient will follow a diet that will be according to their health condition, allergic reactions, and personal preferences.

3. Do not make any kind of major decisions

The patient should not make any kind of major decisions within the first 24 hours after the anesthesia is administered.

One of the physicians stated “Don’t get married, or divorced or buy a car. You might still have some potential grogginess.”

4. Drink water

Patients post-surgery are told to refrain from eating for the first few hours because of the high risk of nausea and vomiting but the body needs to be hydrated naturally.

Once the patient is told to resume eating and drinking then the doctor tells the patient to drink as much water as possible and take fluids.

It is very important for the patient to hydrate themselves mainly because

One is that excessive fluid in the body will metabolize medication and anesthetic medicine to be flushed out of the body on its own and the second is to replete the effects of dehydration from the prior-surgery time.

Side effects of anesthesia

Anesthesia’s side effects vary from person to person. Grogginess is the most common side effect post-surgery after administration of anesthesia.

A lot of people also vomit or feel nauseated, especially female patients and patients who have a history of motion sickness.

Side effects of anesthesia
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According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, other side effects of anesthesia apart from the above-mentioned ones are

  • Muscular pains
  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • Sore throat
  • Itching
  • Shivering and chills

Why is anesthesia needed?

Anesthesia is administered in those medical and surgical procedures which the physicians think would be painful if done without the numbness effect. Anesthesia numbs the body so that the patient remains still.

The amount of anesthesia medicine depends upon the surgery and the health condition of the patient. Sometimes a long-duration surgical procedure is conducted and along with anesthesia the patient is also connected with a feeding tube so that the surgeon can perform the procedure in peace and with utmost focus.

For instance, a lot of people get IUDs in their bodies without the aid of anesthesia because of a low pain threshold or a higher medication required for the body. Apart from IUDs a lot of dental procedures are also done without the help of anesthesia because a lot of patients have a phobia or they have complete power over themselves to stay still therefore minor surgery is conducted with general anesthesia.

Mandatory requirements before getting anesthesia

It is mandatory for the patient to stop eating at least eight hours before the surgery and also stop taking any kind of liquids, particularly clear liquids like water, fruit juices, black coffee, etc. the patient is under observation and the doctor gives them a plan of drinking and eating before performing the surgery.

 Apart from the physician, the anesthesiologists will also ask the patient about any history of allergies, smoking, alcohol consumption, recreational drugs, medications, or any other kind of interactions with the medicine in order to be prepared before administering it.

If the surgery is going to be long, the procedure would require a breathing tube and in some cases a feeding tube as well. The anesthesiologist might want to examine the mouth to assess how much inside the tube can go and how challenging it will be to place a feeding tube or a breathing tube for the entire process.

Final words

Anesthesia is known to affect people differently and usually, it takes somewhere from one hour to three hours for the side effects to completely wear off but in reality, the medicine can stay in the system for much longer.

The patient needs to drink fluids and water so that anesthetic medicine can be flushed out of the body as well as rehydrate the body after the extensive surgical procedure.

Whichever kind of anesthesia is chosen to be administered, it will take time to have its side effects completely worn off from the body and until then the patient would have to experience grogginess and dizziness.