General Anesthesia

What is general anesthesia?

The term general anesthesia refers to the controlled loss of consciousness of the patient for the purposes of a surgical procedure. During general anesthesia, patients are not aware of what is happening around them (hypnosis), cannot control their body functions (muscle paralysis), nor do they feel any pain (analgesia). As a colloquialism, the expression “the patient is asleep” is often used.


Typically, this process is used for procedures that:

  • would be quite painful for the patient if they did not undergo general anesthesia
  • take a lot of time to complete
  • affect the ability to breathe
  • relate to a major organ, e.g. heart or brain, or to a large-sized body part
  • cause stress or great discomfort to the patient

When is it used?

What is the procedure of general anesthesia?

General anesthesia is administered by the anesthesiologist, who is present throughout the procedure. Anesthesia is achieved by administering anesthetic drugs, either intravenously or through breathing (inhaled anesthetics) using a special mask.
Due to the loss of consciousness, patients cannot control their muscles that contribute to breathing, so they are intubated and placed on mechanical respiratory support.
Body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, breathing, and other vital functions of the body are continuously monitored by the anesthesiologist. After the procedure, the anesthesiologist reverses the anesthetic medications to bring the patient back to consciousness.
The patient gradually recovers, initially experiencing some lightheadedness or confusion.

What should the patient do after general anesthesia?

As soon as a patient recovers, they can take a few sips of water. Later on in the day, if they don’t feel nauseous or prone to vomiting, they can drink more liquids and resume their eating normally.
Patients should rest for the first 24 hours following surgery and refrain from the following:

  • Work
  • Vigorous activities
  • Child care
  • Driving
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Using medication against their surgeon’s advice
  • Important decision making

Possible side effects

Patients experience side effects that usually occur immediately after general anesthesia and are short-term. Most common side effects are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Itching
  • Somnolence
  • Mild hoarseness
  • Shivering
  • Confusion and memory loss

Risk factors

Overall, general anesthesia is typically considered a safe procedure, with very little risk for complications in the general population. However, aged individuals or those with significant medical issues may be more susceptible to serious and/or life-threatening consequences, i.e., cardiac arrest, stroke, pneumonia, etc.
Complication risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • History of stroke
  • Diseases related to the heart, lungs, or kidneys
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Epilepsy
  • Drug allergies