General anesthesia is a medical treatment which makes an individual completely unconscious and relaxed.  This procedure will make your body motionless during the operation and you will not feel any pain.   This technique is often complemented with regional anesthesia techniques for postoperative pain control and to improve the overall anesthesia.

General Anesthesia is Best for Major Operations

This form of anesthesia is best for major operations such as abdominal, chest and heart surgery.  These procedures may last for a long period of time, have a large amount of blood loss, affect your breathing, cause too much anxiety if you were awake or require muscle paralysis.  In these situations, it is best that you be completely asleep and relaxed.

Is It Safe?

With todays standards and safety procedures general anesthesia is safe in the hands of well-trained anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).

In almost 100% of operating rooms in the United States, anesthesia care givers are required to be certified in their specialty.  This ensures a knowledge of the field of anesthesia and consequently reasonable care.

How does General Anesthesia work?

After preparing you for surgery you will go into the operating room where monitors will be applied.  The anesthetic often starts with an intravenous medication which will quickly to put you to sleep.  Another option commonly used in children is inhalation agents through a mask.  This takes a little bit longer but is quite effective.  It can be used for adults in some circumstances.

Going To Sleep

The efficiency of the anesthetic is outstanding as you will likely not realize you are going to sleep.  The last you are likely to remember is one last word of comfort from your anesthesia provider.  Sometimes you may feel a warm feeling going up your arm or a slight tingling all over.  Moments later your will wake up in the recovery room.

Monitored patient

While You Are Asleep

As you sleep in the operating room you will be completely unaware of the activity around you.  Your anesthetic will be maintained by your anesthesia provider throughout the case.  Monitors will track your blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and even brain wave activity.

Monitos in room

Tube in your Airway

As you go off to sleep, medications may be given to relax your muscles and they will place a small tube in your windpipe.  This is beneficialwhen performing large procedures or when the airway requires protection.  In most outpatient procedures today, a tube is not placed, and the patient is maintained with a mask or an LMA, which is a small tube with a balloon, placed in the pharynx.

Waking Up

As you wake up from general anesthesia , most likely in the recovery room, you will be sleepy and possibly confused. A recovery room nurse will be assigned to your care and will be constantly in attendance. Here they will monitor your situation to assure you fully recover from the anesthetic before sending you home. Hopefully medications will be given in the operating room to allow you to awaken with minimal pain. Nurses will constantly monitor this to make sure you leave the recovery almost completely pain free.

In recovery room

Risks of General Anesthesia

In today’s environment, when following the standards for anesthesia, general anesthesia can be a very safe procedure. If there is a problem it is usually due to some side effect of the anesthetic such as nausea and vomiting, disorientation, itching, chills or a sore throat. These are almost always short-lived and disappear within hours.

Having said this one must point out that some patients are at high risk for any anesthetic and will require special treatment.  In a properly coordinated preoperative evaluation, these risk factors will be identified, and problems can be averted.

High Risk Patients

It is important to know that the following patients are at increased risk:

  • Anyone with chronic disease or a medical condition.
  • Pregnancy
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Smoker
  • Heart disease
  • Pulmonary condition
  • Kidney disease

A well-organized anesthesia care team will be able to identify problems and give you the general anesthesia you need that will keep you safe.  It is important to work closely with them beginning at your first encounter.