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by Patricia Kellicker, BSN
General anesthesia puts the entire body to sleep with the use of medications. It is a state of unconsciousness. During this time, the brain cannot feel any pain. It is often used for certain types of surgery or for a procedure that would make you uncomfortable if you were awake.
Doctors trained in anesthesia (anesthesiologists) carefully balance the amount of anesthesia medications given by closely monitoring the body’s functions. Medications are used to:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
This is used so that surgery can be done without you:
Possible Complications TOP
Every precaution is used to prevent complications. Often, medications are given in advance to prevent certain problems, such as nausea and vomiting. Even so, complications may occur. These may include:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Unless you are having emergency surgery, you will meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery and will be asked about:
Before the procedure:
Description of the Procedure
General anesthesia is broken down into 3 phases:
Immediately After Procedure TOP
As you wake up, you will be closely monitored. Any pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
This procedure takes as long as needed, depending on the surgery.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
General anesthesia numbs all pain. Since you are asleep, your brain will not sense any pain signals.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
How long you spend in the hospital depends on:
Post-procedure Care TOP
When 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.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Call Your Doctor TOP
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Anesthesia—what to expect. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2015. Accessed October 2, 2017.
General anesthesia. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2015. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Pollard R, Coyle J, Gilbert R, Beck J. Intraoperative awareness in a regional medical system: A review of 3 years' data. Anesthesiology. 2007;106(2)269-274.
Sackel DJ. Anesthesia awareness: an analysis of its incidence, the risk factors involved, and prevention. J Clin Anesth. 2006;18(7):483-485.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 10/2/2017
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