What is General Anesthesia? Everyone has heard the phrase “put you to sleep” when they talk about surgery. “How they put you to sleep” is through the use of general anesthesia which is a term used for the treatment that renders you unconscious so you don’t feel or remember anything while surgery is being performed. A combination of intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses (anesthetics) are used knock you out. The “sleep” you are in is not the same as your night time sleep. Your brain doesn’t respond to pain or outside influences when it is anesthetized.


Why Is General Anesthesia Used?

General anesthesia is required for surgical procedures that would otherwise be too painful to endure. It is also used for other surgical procedures that take a long time, require you to be in an uncomfortable position or affect your breathing.

A specially trained physician called an anesthesiologist, often along with a certified registered nurse anesthetist administers the intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses before and during the surgery. They also control your breathing and monitor your body’s vital functions during your procedure.

How Does It Differ From Other Forms Of Anesthesia?

General Anesthesia knocks you completely out while other forms of anesthesia may use injections to numb selective areas of your body or provide a light sedation.

What Are The Risks? How Safe Is It?

General anesthesia is the one thing that many surgical patients fear most. They hear too many horror stories about people dying from it. Most healthy people don’t have any problems. Depending on your health and the procedure, there is a small risk of long term complications and rarely death. There is an increased risk if you smoke, use alcohol, have allergies, have sleep apnea, are obese, take certain medication or have medical conditions involving lungs, kidneys or your heart.

What Are The Complications?

Older adults and people with medical conditions are more prone to complications including heart attack, stroke, lung infections, temporary mental confusion and death.

What Is General Anesthesia Awareness?

General Anesthesia Awareness (also called unintended intraoperative awareness) is when the patient wakes up briefly during surgery while under general anesthesia. In most cases the patient is aware of his surroundings and doesn’t feel any pain. Sometimes, however, some patients don’t “wake up during surgery’ but experience excruciating pain during the operation. Long-term psychological problems and develop in these cases. The likelihood of general anesthesia awareness increases if the patient is undergoing emergency surgery, has heat or lung problems, uses alcohol daily or has long term drug use.

Can I Eat Or Drink Before Undergoing General Anesthesia?

No. You can’t eat or drink before anesthesia. Your body has a natural tendency to keep food in your stomach and keep it out of your lungs after you eat. The anesthesia inhibits this tendency. That is why is it so important not to eat or drink for a minimum of six hours before your procedure.

Do I Have To Prepare?

It is important to prepare for surgery and anesthesia in accordance with your doctors instructions. General guidelines include: no eating or drinking 6 hours before surgery, avoid certain medications, supplements, herbs and vitamins for at least one week before surgery (consult with your doctor).

What To Expect?

Before your surgery you will meet with and talk to the anesthesiologist. He will ask you questions about your health, your medical history, your medications, supplements, herbs and vitamins that you take, if you have any allergies, if you had anesthesia in the past and other questions. He will use this information to select the drugs that will work best and be safest for you. Read about my encounter with Bob, the anesthesiologist for my tummy tuck.

In many cases the anesthesiologist will insert an intravenous line in your arm or the back of your hand to deliver the medications. It doesn’t hurt, but you will feel a prick as he puts it in. Sometimes the medication is started with a gas that you breath in a mask. Before the surgery begins the anesthesiologist may “give you a taste” of the medication to keep you calm and make you feel good. He will be talking to you and asking all sorts of questions and the next thing you know you are waking up in the recovery room.

In some cases, depending on the operation, after you are “asleep” a flexible tube may be inserted in your mouth and down your windpipe to give you oxygen and to protect your lungs from secretions from your stomach. If you wake up later with a sore throat you may have had an oxygen tube installed.

While you are “out” the anesthesiologist or his assistant continually monitors and adjusts your medications, breathing, temperature, fluids and blood pressure as needed.

After the surgery is complete and the medications are discontinued you will gradually wake up. You will likely be surrounded by a lot of people and will be groggy and confused when you first wake up. Some people experience nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, sleepiness and shivering.

Feedback Messages


Sent: September 10, 2011
Subject: Anesthesia Problems

I had been under general anesthesia at 1pm 9/9/2011. Ever since I lost sense of taste and COMPLETE LOSS OF SALIVA. My mouth is “parched” all day and night, very dry throat as well. Urologist performed a removal of left kidney blockage. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Response – Jeno,

Sorry, I don’t have any good suggestions. I didn’t have that problem with when I had anesthesia.

According to the following web page it may take a few days for your symptoms to go away.


It suggests “Normal sore throat care including minimal speaking, drinking lots of fluids and over-the-counter remedies should do the trick within a few days. If your sore throat persists more than a week, consider consulting your surgeon or another doctor.”

Good luck.