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Anesthesia

Late Emergence from Anesthesia

11/23/2010

Question:

I am twenty-one years old and I have had three surgeries from the time I was five until now: corrective eye surgery, complete wisdom teeth extraction, and wrist surgery. The different lengths of surgery have each required different amounts of anesthesia. Yet, every time I go under, I have had a very difficult time coming out.

When I had my eye surgery at age five, it took me three days to be able to open my eyes after leaving the hospital. It was like they were frozen shut. The doctor later said they had over-anesthatized me.

After my wisdom teeth surgery when I was eighteen, it took me over 45 minutes to completely come out of it and an additional 45 minutes before they felt comfortable letting me leave. They said most people are usually lucid and ready to go home within 15-30 minutes.

The most recent surgery I had was on my wrist. The nurse told me that as I was waking from the anesthesia I was thrashing violently like I was having a seizure and that they were forced to keep me in the immediate recovery room much longer than the average patient. She then told me I should make sure I tell this to someone if I ever had to have surgery again. My expected discharge time was between 11 and 12 pm, I went home at 5.

Is this something serious? Why do I seem to have so much more trouble than the average person emerging from the anesthesia? I want to know if this is something I should really be concerned about, especially if there were ever to a chance of an emergency surgery and I could not let the doctor know ahead of time.

Answer:

Based on your description there's no clear pattern to suggest a particular diagnosis. It's unlikely that your eyes were shut for five days - you need more accurate information about what actually happened. "Over-anesthetised" is a relatively meaningless term. However corrective eye surgery is usually for "squint" (in medical terms - strabismus) and is sometimes associated with muscular disorders which themselves can be associated with unusual reactions to some kinds of anesthetic drugs. 90 minutes is really not an excessive period of time to become home-ready after general anesthesia for dental surgery. Agitation during recovery from general anesthesia is not unusual. It is unlikely that you were having an epileptic seizure. Again more detail is needed. Causes for agitation include pain, a full bladder, also more serious issues like delayed recovery from muscle relaxants, breathing or airway problems, and so on.

The good thing is that is does not sound as though you have had anything life-threatening occur. However I advise you to gather as much information about your previous hospitalisations and anesthesia. You can even request copies of your hospital records. Keep a file, then bring those to the hospital to discuss when you meet with your anesthesiologist.

For more information:

Go to the Anesthesia health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University