Postanaesthetic shivering: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and approaches to prevention and management

Drugs. 2001;61(15):2193-205. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200161150-00004.


Along with nausea and vomiting, postanaesthetic shivering is one of the leading causes of discomfort for patients recovering from general anaesthesia. The distinguishing factor during electromyogram recordings between patients with postanaesthetic shivering and shivering in fully awake patients is the existence of clonus similar to that recorded in patients with spinal cord transection. Clonus coexists with the classic waxing and waning signals associated with cutaneous vasoconstriction (thermoregulatory shivering). The primary cause of postanaesthetic shivering is peroperative hypothermia, which sets in because of anaesthetic-induced inhibition of thermoregulation. However, shivering associated with cutaneous vasodilatation (non-thermoregulatory shivering) also occurs, one of the origins of which is postoperative pain. Apart from causing discomfort and aggravation of pain, postanaesthetic shivering increases metabolic demand proportionally to the solicited muscle mass and the cardiac capacity of the patient. No link has been demonstrated between the occurrence of shivering and an increase in cardiac morbidity, but it is preferable to avoid postanaesthetic shivering because it is oxygen draining. Prevention mainly entails preventing peroperative hypothermia by actively rewarming the patient. Postoperative skin surface rewarming is a rapid way of obtaining the threshold shivering temperature while raising the skin temperature and improving the comfort of the patient. However, it is less efficient than certain drugs such as meperidine, clonidine or tramadol, which act by reducing the shivering threshold temperature.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / prevention & control
  • Incidence
  • Ketanserin / therapeutic use
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Nefopam / therapeutic use
  • Ondansetron / therapeutic use
  • Serotonin Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Shivering / physiology*
  • Tramadol / therapeutic use


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotics
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Tramadol
  • Ondansetron
  • Nefopam
  • Ketanserin