General anesthesia refers to total body anesthesia. The body is brought to a level of sleep where there is no sensation, memory or movement. Anesthesiologists use medications called "general anesthetics" that are given intravenously or are inhaled. The level of anesthesia is constantly fine-tuned by the anesthesiologist for each patient. General anesthesia is reversed at the end of surgery and the patient is taken to the recovery room.
The procedure for general anesthesia goes as follows:
- Prior to surgery, the anesthesiologist may collect information from the patient to determine the safest combination of drugs and dosages. This information includes:
- Health history
- Current medication being taken (prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements)
- Previous anesthetics
- Fasting time
- Right before the surgery, the general anesthesia will be given intravenously (line in your arm). The anesthesia may also be administered through a face mask if the anesthesiologist or patient prefers inhalation induction. This usually occurs for children who are afraid of needles or when IV access is difficult to obtain.
- During the procedure, the anesthesiologist closely monitors the patient. He/she maintains the patient's medications, airway management (a breathing tube may be inserted), temperature and blood pressure, all the while making sure that the patient does not regain consciousness.
- Once the surgery is complete, the patient will be taken off the anesthesia drugs and he/she will gradually wake up. The patient may experience common side effects such as grogginess, nausea, dry mouth, sore throat and shivering.
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