General anesthesia puts the entire body to sleep by giving medication. 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 medications given by closely monitoring the body’s functions. Medications are used to:
Relax the muscles
Regulate body functions
Reasons for Procedure
This is used so that surgery can be done without you:
Being aware of it
Feeling any pain
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 and include:
Allergic reaction to anesthetic used
Nerve damage or skin breakdown from positioning on the operating table
Unless you are having emergency surgery, you will meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery and will be asked about:
Your health history and your family's health history—Tell your doctor if you have had anesthesia before and your reaction to it. Tell your doctor about your family's history with anesthesia.
Medications that you take, including
herbs and supplements
—These can have an effect on how the anesthesia works.
Before the procedure:
Your height and weight will be taken.
You will need to fast the night before surgery.
You may need to take certain medications in the morning before surgery.
Description of the Procedure
General anesthesia is broken down into three phases:
Induction phase—Medications will be given that result in the loss of consciousness. These will be given through an IV or through gas into the lungs. A breathing tube will be placed down your windpipe. This will be attached to a machine that helps you continue to breathe normally.
Middle or maintenance phase—Medications will be given based on your responses. These may keep you asleep or regulate your body functions.
Recovery or emergence
phase—This will slowly reverse the anesthesia. The medications given will allow you to wake up. When you are starting to awaken and are breathing on your own, the breathing tube will be removed.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.