Anaesthetics, General Anaesthetic

General anaesthesia is medically known as a state of controlled unconsciousness. A general anaesthetic is given in procedures that are invasive. During a general anaesthetic, medications are used to send you to sleep, so you are unaware of the surgery and do not move or feel pain while it is carried out.

General anaesthesia interrupts the passage of signals along the nerves. This means that any stimulation to the body is not processed or recognised by the brain.

A general anaesthetic is given to the patient by an anaesthetist. They will be able to answer any questions you have.  An anaesthetic can be given in either a liquid from, that is injected into your veins through a cannula (a thin plastic tube that feeds into a vein, usually on the back of your hand), or as a gas that you breathe in through a mask. The anaesthetic should take effect very quickly and you will be asleep in a few minutes, the anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the procedure.


Once the operation is completed, the anaesthetist then gradually wakes you up. You will wake up in a recovery room before being transferred to a ward. It very much depends on the operation how long you stay in hospital following an anaesthetic; it could be a few hours or a few days.

Side Effects

A general anaesthetic can affect your memory, concentration and reflexes for a day or two, so it is important that a responsible adults stated with you for at least 24 hours after your operation. You will be advised to avoid drinking, driving and signing any legal document for 24-48 hours.

Other side effects include; feeling sick and vomiting, shivering and feeling cold, confusion and memory loss, bladder problems, dizziness, bruising, soreness, sore throat and damage to mouth or teeth. These all vary in severity so it is best to ask you anaesthetist if you have any concerns.

Complications and risks

There are more serious complications associated with general anaesthetic, but these are rare and occur in less than 1 in every 10,000.

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