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General Anesthesia

  • Patricia Kellicker, BSN
Publication Type:


General Anesthesia

(Anesthesia, General)


General anesthesia is medicine used to put the entire body to sleep. It blocks the brain from feeling pain and keeps you unconscious. General anesthesia is given by doctors trained in anesthesia. They carefully balance the amount of medicine that is needed.

Reasons for Procedure

General anesthesia is used for a surgery or a procedure that would be uncomfortable if you were awake. The medicine will help to:

  • Prevent pain
  • Relax the muscles
  • Stop certain reflexes
  • Prevent awareness of what is happening

Possible Complications

Many steps are taken to prevent problems. Possible risks include:

  • Allergic reaction to anesthetic used
  • Nerve damage or skin breakdown from positioning on the operating table
  • Sore throat or damage to throat, teeth, or vocal cords
  • Lung infections
  • Anesthesia awareness—where the patient becomes aware during the surgery, which is very rare
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Things that can increase the risk of problems are history of:

What to Expect

Call Your Doctor

It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. Call your doctor if there are:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Light-headedness or fainting

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.





  • Anesthesia—what to expect. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/anesthesia.html.
  • General anesthesia. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/general-anesthesia.
  • Pollard R, Coyle J, Gilbert R, Beck J. Intraoperative awareness in a regional medical system: A review of 3 years' data. Anesthesiology. 2007;106(2)269-274.
  • Sackel DJ. Anesthesia awareness: an analysis of its incidence, the risk factors involved, and prevention. J Clin Anesth. 2006;18(7):483-485.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.