General anesthesia puts the entire body to sleep by giving medicine. It is often used during emergency surgery. It is also commonly used if a procedure would make you uncomfortable if you were awake.
Doctors trained in anesthesia (anesthesiologists) carefully balance the amount of anesthesia medicines given by closely monitoring the body’s functions. Medicines are used to:
This is used so that surgery can be done without you:
Every precaution is used to prevent complications. Often, medicines are given in advance to prevent certain problems, such as nausea and vomiting. Even so, complications may occur and include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
Unless you are having emergency surgery, you will meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery and will be asked about:
Before the procedure:
General anesthesia is broken down into three phases:
As you wake up, you will be closely monitored. You will be given pain medicine if you need it.
This procedure takes as long as needed, depending on the surgery.
General anesthesia numbs all pain. Since you are asleep, your brain will not sense any pain signals.
How long you spend in the hospital depends on:
Once you have recovered from anesthesia, you will be sent to a hospital room or home. For the first 24 hours or longer, avoid doing activities that require your attention, such as driving. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Canadian Anesthesiologists Society
Anesthesia. US National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/anesthesia.html. Updated June 2009. Accessed July 28, 2009.
Anesthesia and you. American Society of Anesthesiologists website. Available at: http://www.asahq.org/patientEducation/anesandyou.htm. Accessed July 28, 2009.
General anesthesia. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anesthesia/MY00100. Updated June 2009. Accessed July 28, 2009.
General anesthesia. US National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/generalanesthesia/an079103.pdf. Accessed July 28, 2009.
The Joint Commission website. Available at: http://www.jointcommission.org/. Accessed July 28, 2009.
Pollard R, Coyle J, Gilbert R, Beck J. Intraoperative awareness in a regional medical system: A review of 3 years' data. Anesthesiology. 2007;269-274.
Sackel DJ. Anesthesia awareness: an analysis of its incidence, the risk factors involved, and prevention. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. 2006;18:483-485.
Last reviewed October 2009 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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