by Patricia Kellicker, BSN
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:
Reasons for Procedure
This is used so that surgery can be done without you:
Possible Complications TOP
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.
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 three phases:
Immediately After Procedure
As you wake up, you will be closely monitored. You will be given pain medicine if you need it.
How Long Will It Take?
This procedure takes as long as needed, depending on the surgery.
How Much Will It Hurt?
General anesthesia numbs all pain. Since you are asleep, your brain will not sense any pain signals.
Average Hospital Stay
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.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Canadian Anesthesiologists Society
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.
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 September 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 09/10/2012