Know the basics
What is General Anaesthetic?
An anaesthetic is a drug or agent that produces a complete or partial loss of feeling. There are three kinds of anaesthetic: general, regional and local. When a patient undergoes a general anaesthetic, they lose sensation and become unconscious. General anaesthetics are medications used to cause a loss of consciousness so you’re unaware of surgery. It is known that all anaesthetic methods interrupt the passage of signals along the nerves. This means that any stimulation to the body doesn’t get processed or recognised by the brain.
General anaesthetic may be given as an injection or as a gas. An anaesthetist will administer a general anaesthetic.
Why is General Anaesthetic performed?
You would receive general anaesthetic when you are going to receive certain surgeries. For some surgical procedures, general anaesthetic is essential as it might be safer or more comfortable for the patient to not know what the surgeons would do. Especially, it is very helpful for long and painful operations. For instances, operations to remove the gallbladder, hernia repair, liposuction or a hysterectomy.
Understand the risks
What are the risks of General Anaesthetic?
Most healthy people don’t have any problems with general anesthesia. In general, the risk of complications is more closely related to the type of procedure you’re undergoing, and your general physical health, than to the anesthesia itself.
Estimates vary, but about 1 or 2 people in every 1,000 may wake up briefly while receiving general anesthesia. The person usually doesn’t feel pain, but is aware of their surroundings.
Some of the rare but possible side effects from general anaesthetic include:
- Injury at the injection site;
- Breathing problems;
- Short term damage to nerves;
- Allergic reaction, for example, asthma attack;
- Having sensation (and pain) during the operation;
- Damage to the mouth, teeth, lips or tongue;
- Damage to vocal cords or larynx;
- Lung damage;
- Heart attack;
- Brain damage;
- Kidney failure;
- Liver failure;
- Paraplegia (complete or incomplete paralysis affecting the legs and possibly also the trunk, but not the arms);
- Quadriplegia (paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in the partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso; paraplegia is similar but does not affect the arms).
It is important you understand the risks and complications before having this surgery. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
Know what happens
How do I prepare for General Anaesthetic?
You must discuss to your doctor about your recent medications, your allergies or any of your health conditions and before having an operation, you will meet your anaesthetist and plan your anaesthetic together. It’s important to follow the instructions about when to stop eating and drinking prior to surgery.
You should be given clear instructions to follow before the operation, including whether you can eat anything in the hours leading up to it. In most cases, you should start fasting about six hours before your procedure. You may be able to drink fluids, such as coffee, until a few hours before your surgery.
What happens during General Anaesthetic?
General anaesthetic will be given to you by an anaesthetist (a specially trained doctor). It will either be given as a:
- Liquid that’s injected into your veins through a cannula (a thin, plastic tube that feeds into a vein, usually on the back of your hand);
- Gas that you breathe in through a mask.
Your anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the procedure. They will make sure you continue to receive the anaesthetic and you stay asleep, in a controlled state of unconsciousness.
After the procedure, the anaesthetist will turn off the anaesthetic and you will gradually wake up.
If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
What happens after General Anaesthetic?
As you begin to awaken from general anesthesia, you may experience some confusion, disorientation, or difficulty thinking clearly. This is normal. It may take some time before the effects of the anesthesia are completely gone. Don’t worry because you are wheeled into the recovery room where specialized staff members look after you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
General Anesthesia. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/general-anesthesia-topic-overview. Accessed July 16, 2016.
General anaesthesia. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anaesthetic-general/Pages/Definition.aspx. Accessed July 16, 2016.
Review Date: September 6, 2018 | Last Modified: September 6, 2018