What you can expect

Before the procedure

Before you undergo general anesthesia, your anesthesiologist will talk with you and may ask questions about:

  • Your health history
  • Your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements
  • Allergies
  • Your past experiences with anesthesia

This will help your anesthesiologist choose the medications that will be the safest for you.

During the procedure

Your anesthesiologist usually delivers the anesthesia medications through an intravenous line in your arm. Sometimes you may be given a gas that you breathe from a mask. Children may prefer to go to sleep with a mask.

Once you're asleep, the anesthesiologist may insert a tube into your mouth and down your windpipe. The tube ensures that you get enough oxygen and protects your lungs from blood or other fluids, such as stomach fluids. You'll be given muscle relaxants before doctors insert the tube to relax the muscles in your windpipe.

Your doctor may use other options, such as a laryngeal airway mask, to help manage your breathing during surgery.

Someone from the anesthesia care team monitors you continuously while you sleep. He or she will adjust your medications, breathing, temperature, fluids and blood pressure as needed. Any issues that occur during the surgery are corrected with additional medications, fluids and, sometimes, blood transfusions.

Blood transfusions may sometimes be necessary, such as during complex surgeries. The anesthesia care team monitors your condition and delivers blood transfusions when needed. Blood transfusions may involve risks. These risks are greater in people who are older, have low red blood cell volume or are undergoing complex heart surgeries.

After the procedure

When the surgery is complete, the anesthesia medications are stopped, and you slowly wake either in the operating room or the recovery room. You'll probably feel groggy and a little confused when you first wake. You may experience common side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Shivering
  • Sleepiness
  • Mild hoarseness

You may also experience other side effects after you awaken from anesthesia, such as pain. Side effects depend on your individual condition and the type of surgery. Your doctor may give you medications after your procedure to reduce pain and nausea.

Nov. 20, 2015
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