Waking Up

At the end of surgery, it is time for what is called emergence.  It is the time when the patient is expected to wake up from anesthesia.  In the case of a general anesthetic the anesthesia medications are discontinued and the medications are allowed to disappear from the body.  As the anesthetic leaves the brain, the patient will gradually awaken depending on the level of the anesthetic and the medications used.

The Emergence Process

If you had a general anesthetic and a breathing tube was inserted in your windpipe this is the time it will be removed.  Anesthesia Providers follow very strict criteria to determine if it is safe to remove this life saving device.  Some of the medications today are eliminated rather quickly and patients awaken in a few minutes.  

Confusion After Surgery

Many patients will appear awake and can move to a stretcher on their own but not all their cognitive functions are working well. The patients remain confused and may not remember any of the occurrences during this time. It may take the entire day before an individual may be fully competent. In the case of a regional anesthetic the level of sedation is much less and the medications commonly used such as propofol will be eliminated quickly. These patients will awaken quickly and in most circumstances, be alert in minutes.


How Long After Emergence From Anesthesia Before I Can Drive?

  • In most circumstances, it is still strongly advisable not to do any driving or serious decision making for the remainder of the day.  You will likely be under the influence of drugs for most of the day.