Recovery time after general anaesthesia


The wake-up time after general anaesthesia describes the period of time from the end of an operation until the patient is mentally back in a normal state. During this time, the patient is cared for in the recovery room, which in most cases is located directly next to the operating area. There, respiration and circulation are monitored until a transfer back to the original ward or intensive care unit is possible. The duration is usually between one and three hours. In most hospitals, the relatives of the affected person can be accompanied during the recovery phase.

Duration of the wake-up time

The duration of the wake-up time depends on many factors. First of all, the type of anesthesia is decisive for the wake-up phase. Some anaesthetics can be specifically stopped by antidotes so that the person concerned wakes up quickly.

Other anaesthetics have to be broken down by the body itself, which can prolong the time until complete recovery after the operation. Furthermore, the breakdown of anaesthetics varies greatly from patient to patient. Persons with kidney or liver damage often need longer to convert and excrete the anaesthetics.

The size and type of surgery also determines the time until complete recovery from general anaesthesia. In most cases, waking up is initiated immediately after the operation. The anaesthetist stops the anaesthetic gas and pulls out the breathing tube, so that the patient is usually still awake in the operating theatre.

Normally the entire wake-up phase after the operation lasts between one and three hours, which are waited for completely in the wake-up room under supervision. In exceptional cases, waking up takes longer than three hours, but this varies from person to person and therefore does not automatically mean a complication. In the case of very serious operations, the operating team, together with the anaesthetist, may decide to maintain the anaesthesia and induce an artificial coma in order to give the body the chance to heal and to avoid possible intracranial pressure.

Pain in the wake-up time

Depending on the operation, pain may occur after the operation. In this case the patient should contact the staff in the recovery room to get painkillers for the postoperative pain. Some patients also develop headaches or a sore throat due to ventilation.

In principle, however, pain therapy by the anaesthetist should remedy these problems. Depending on the type of muscle relaxation during the operation, a severe muscle ache may also occur. This topic might also be of interest to you: After-effects of general anesthesia

Trembling in the wake-up time

A general anaesthetic is always a major intervention in the normal functions of the body and therefore has some side effects. During general anaesthesia, the anaesthetist takes over the maintenance of the body temperature with infusions and warm blankets, because the temperature regulation in the brain does not function properly during general anaesthesia. After the anaesthesia the body has to get used to this task again.

This is also made more difficult by the fact that part of the general anaesthesia is often muscle relaxing medication and that this must first be completely broken down so that normal muscle function can be restored. These two mechanisms can cause some patients to tremble after the operation. This tremor increases the oxygen consumption of the affected person many times over, which is why it is important to monitor oxygen saturation in the recovery room.

In addition, post-operative tremor can lead to increased complications in the surgical area. Sutures can become loose and leak, and the affected person can develop greater pain. To treat this anaesthetic after-effect, patients can be covered with warm blankets and painkillers can be given. The best prevention of postoperative tremor is close control of body temperature during the operation and warming up before waking up from the anaesthesia. These articles may also be of interest to you: The risks of general anesthesia and side effects of general anesthesia