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What is general anaesthetic?

When you have a general anaesthetic you will not be aware of what is happening during your procedure.

How is general anaesthetic given?

To administer the drugs the Anaesthetist will insert an intravenous (IV) cannula into a vein - usually on the back of your hand. The needle is very fine so you may not feel a thing when it is inserted. A little opening on the cannula allows fluids to be administered from an IV bag. Another opening allows the anaesthetist to administer drugs at any time before and during your procedure without you even knowing. In about 30 seconds you will be in a very deep sleep. 

Sometimes anaesthetic is delivered via a face mask. This also takes about 30 seconds to work. 

How will my anaesthetist know that I am really asleep?

The anaesthetist will stay with you throughout your entire procedure closely monitoring the amount of anaesthetic in your body to make sure it is extremely unlikely you are aware of what is happening. Your breathing and vital functions are also monitored very carefully.

Is general anaesthetic safe?

General Anaesthetic is safe for most people. We may need to do some tests before your procedure to be sure GA is right for you. Tests may include ECG, blood tests or lung function test. 

How soon will I recover?

When your procedure is finished the anaesthetist will stop administering anaesthetic drugs. You will gradually start to wake up. You will probably feel a bit groggy and confused. Staff trained to help patients in their recovery will be closely monitoring your progress. Be sure and ask them if you need anything. 

General anaesthetic can affect your judgement and reactions or the first 24 hours. 

Are there any complications?

Everyone reacts differently to medication. As with any medical procedure you could experience some side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Muscle and back pains

  • Difficulty passing urine

More serious complications might include:


Loss or change of hearing

  • Eye injury

  • Dental damage

  • Nerve injury

  • Heart attack

  • Stroke

  • Chest infection and other breathing problems
Allergic reaction

Remember - Recovery Room staff are trained to monitor and help you recover safely. Please ask for any help you might need. 

Are there any alternatives to a general anaesthetic?

There are several other types of anaesthetic. Your surgeon will recommend a type of anaesthetic based on your medical situation and the procedure you are having. Click on the links below to read about these procedures:

If you have any questions or concerns about general anaesthesia be sure and ask our experienced staff. 

For more information on Anaesthesia visit the Royal College of Anaesthetists’ website.

Find your nearest hospital that provides this treatment

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