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Complications From Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia is not without risk. Adverse events can occur during any anaesthetic. These events may occur due to: Reactions to anaesthetic drugs, underlying medical diseases, complications with procedures that have to be performed or due to surgery itself. Anaesthetists have been trained to manage these complications and all necessary precautions will be taken to ensure that you receive the safest and most appropriate anaesthetic possible.

1 to 10% of cases
Minimal treatment usually


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Shivering or feeling cold
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Pain during injection of drugs
  • Swelling or bruising at the infusion site.
  • Confusion (more common in elderly patients)

Less thanĀ  1 in 1000 cases
May require further treatment


  • Injuries to teeth, crowns, lips, tongue and mouth
  • Painful muscles
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Visual disturbances
  • Worsening of underlying medical conditions like diabetes, asthma or heart disease
  • Hoarse voice, vocal cord injuries.
  • Pressure related injuries

1 in 10,000 to 1 in 200,000 cases
Often serious with long-term damage

Very Rare

  • Eye injuries
  • Nerve injuries causing paralysis of nerves/numbness
  • Lung infection
  • Awareness of the operation
  • Bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Allergic reactions/ anaphylaxis
  • Unexpected reactions to anaesthetic drugs
  • Inherited reactions to drugs (Malignant hyperthermia, Scoline apnoea, porphyria)

Less than 1 in 250,000 cases

Brain Damage or Death

  • Due to any other complication becoming more severe
  • Heart attacks
  • Emboli (clots)
  • Lack of oxygen

Complications that may occur due to procedures that may be performed during your anaesthetic:

Intravenous line
Pain, swelling, bleeding, inflammation, infection, clots, repeated insertions if IV not working adequately.

Central line for monitoring or therapy
Pain, swelling, bleeding, inflammation, infection, repeated insertions, puncture of lung, artery or nerve, clots.

Arterial line for specialised monitoring
Pain, swelling, bleeding, inflammation, infection, repeated insertions, loss of blood flow to the hand leading to death of fingers

Airway management
Damage to lips, teeth, tongue, palate, throat, vocal cords, hoarseness, inhalation of stomach contents (aspiration), pneumonia, obstruction of breathing, failure to maintain the airway requiring an operative procedure.

Nerve blocks, spinal or epidural injection
Back pain, Non-resolving headache, nerve damage, paralysis, headache, nausea, vomiting, infection, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, pneumothorax, seizures, drug toxicity

PHONE Dr Caroline Corbett