Surgery interrupts the daily ‘fanastic-ness’ of our over achieving lifestyles. It puts a stop to the ever growing list of achievements that adorn our inboxes, the collection of ticks in our ‘to do’ list and the aggrandisement of accolades that befall us when we look back on the day at hand. There is nothing quite like the “brake befallen befuddle” that surgery is, to interrupt momentum, arrest our forward movement and accumulated exponential curves of success.
The perils of actually ‘going under’ the knife are not always about the immediate issues of having something sharp placed into your belly button or even something inserted through a keyhole and wriggled through your innards. There is the actual fact that you are inhaling nitrous oxide into your system with a concoction of other inhalants that can have subtle changes in your body and the way you process pain, and cognitive thought. This can be the reason why after surgery, you are kept overnight for ‘observation’ as there is never any guaranteed way to predict how someone is going to recover from anesthetic. Whilst dramatic issues are often limited to those over 65 and with particular individually presenting, predisposed conditions, there is still some small chance that you can suffer from inhalants in a negative way.
So what is Anesthetic?
Anesthesia is the state of unconsciousness and decreased sensitivity to function. As opposed to analgesia which is pain relief, anesthetic does not help with the relief of pain post surgery.
The three main applications of anesthesia are:
Local (small numbing of a particular area usually administered intravenously),
Regional (inserted at nerve level e.g spinal block to desensitive broad areas of the body)
General (complete unconscious state).
The content of inhalants which are the usual way of ingesting anesthetic for general application is a main ingredient of Nitrous Oxide usually mixed with other ingredients to enable full desensitisation. Anything ending in a ‘caine’ is usually a form of local anesthetic. These agents prevent neurons from firing and thus desensitize areas as nerve impulses are unable to travel back to the brain.
Nitrous oxide cannot maintain a state of anesthesia on it’s own so usually it is combined with other local agents that enable full unconsciousness. Latest developments into these other inhalants (namely isoflurane, desflurane, sevoflurane) have improved over the years to minimise irritation and symptoms occurring in the airways, however congestion in the lungs, coughing and laryngospasm can occur after anesthetic use. There can also in some cases be issues with vomiting, nausea and headaches depending on the health and sometimes pharmaceutical behaviour of the sufferer which includes recreational drug use and alcohol use. The broad nature of neuron downgrading can create some issues with regulatory behaviour in the body and these symptoms can occur to various individuals. Due to the nature of the neuron downgrading, heart issues can also be a symptom, though a predisposed condition for this is usually an indicator for those who would experience this symptom.
The more subtle of symptoms actually come after the immediate administration, namely in the form of hallucinations and cognitive function. Being able to operate machinery, string sentences together or perform normal daily duties such as making toast and tea can sometimes leave a person slightly befuddled and feeling a bit dopey. Beware attempting to work on an excel spreadsheet and catch up on work you thought you could perform from home if you are fresh from anesthesia. You may find yourself becoming more perplexed at apparently simple formulas and spreadsheets that were your pride and joy in your previous state of grandiose achievement.
Hallucinations are not common but can occur and cause alarm and be real issues for some people. The ‘acid flash back’ may not be quite the norm for many coming out of surgery but it is possible. There are cases of some sufferers experiencing trauma in the form of the hospital being on fire! Time to use that nurses buzzer for something other than room service and champagne!
Long term exposure to anesthetic can imbue a certain predisposition to post operative delirium and the more times you ‘go under’ the more exposure you may have to this symptom.
Researchers suspect that the more anesthesia someone receives—and, consequently, the deeper someone slips into unconsciousness—the greater the risk of delirium
However this delirium is also something that is related to the more senior members of our community and there is also evidence to suggest anesthetic has more effect on the brain pathways of seniors due to the reduced amount of proteins available in the neurons themselves, thus the effects of the anesthetic is more potent on these diminished neurons.
But that’s not to say that a bit of post operative lucidity could be something to be aware of when you do recover after a relatively ‘simple procedure’. The fogginess and ‘haze’ of post surgery can be enough to warrant some concern and those who are usually so individually and independently adept should beware, this may be one of those cases where in fact – you do need to call on your mother!
In terms of more simple physical symptoms, headaches and muscular aches can be a side effect of anesthetic. Muscular control and more importantly co-ordination is affected from the neuron blocking and this has repercussions on the ability of someone to recover after surgery. This has implications on how quickly you can return to full physical capacity after surgery and beyond that. There is also some risk of hypothermia on a very mild scale. It is not abnormal for cold an shivering to be experienced in a mild form after surgery as many of the protein blockers do target neurons that regulate and monitor bodily functions such as sleep and circadian rhythms.
So whilst is nothing too difficult to recover from and rarely does anesthetic have major repercussions unless you are in a certain age bracket, it is good practice to be aware that you have functions that are affected by ‘going under’. It takes time and processing to get rid of the inhalants of anesthetic and this has repercussions on how you can perform or be capable post surgery. As most of us won’t be wandering the halls of hospitals imagining an alien invasion post surgery, if you’re feeling a little ‘strange’ after coming to for a few days, cut yourself some slack – and maybe don’t operate any heavy machinery.