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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

67 Lansdowne Road, Bournemouth, BH1 1RW

01202 291866
Overall rating View rating

Shenfield Road, Brentwood, CM15 8EH

01277 695695
Overall rating Good

Warren Road, Brighton, BN2 6DX

01273 624 488
Overall rating Good

3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870
Overall rating Good

4 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AF

01223 370 922
Overall rating Outstanding
Cardiff and Vale  

Cardiff Bay Hospital, Dunleavy Drive, Cardiff, CF11 0SN

02920 836700

Hatherley Lane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 6SY

01242 246 552
Overall rating Good

Wrexham Road, Chester, CH4 7QP

01244 680 444
Overall rating Good

78 Broyle Road, Chichester, PO19 6WB

01243 530600
Overall rating Good

Rykneld Road, Derby, DE23 4SN

01332 540100
Overall rating Good

Wonford Road, Exeter, EX2 4UG

01392 276 591
Overall rating Good

25 Beaconsfield Road, Glasgow, G12 0PJ

0141 334 9441

Stirling Road, Guildford, GU2 7RF

01483 555 800
Overall rating Good
Haywards Heath  

Burrell Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1UD

01444 456999
Overall rating Good

Venns Lane, Hereford, HR1 1DF

01432 355 131
Overall rating Good

Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP4 5SW

01473 279100
Overall rating Good

2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

0113 388 2111
Overall rating Outstanding

Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY

0116 276 9401
Overall rating Good
Newcastle upon Tyne  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1JP

01912 816 131
Overall rating Good
North Staffordshire  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 4DB

01782 382551
Overall rating Good

Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP

01865 307777
Overall rating Good

Derriford Road, Plymouth, PL6 8BG

01752 775 861
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Longden Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 9DP

01743 282 500
Overall rating Good

Staplegrove Elm, Taunton, TA2 6AN

01823 286 991
Overall rating Good

Junction Road, Norton, Stockton on Tees, TS20 1PX

01642 360 100
Overall rating Outstanding
Tunbridge Wells  

Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 4UL

01892 531 111
Overall rating Good

The Chase, Old Milverton Lane, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RW

01926 427971
Overall rating Good

Winchester Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, SO53 2DW

02380 266 377
Overall rating Good

Shores Road, Woking, GU21 4BY

01483 227800
Overall rating Good

Wood Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, WV6 8LE

01902 793 269
Overall rating Good

Haxby Road, York, YO31 8TA

01904 715 000
Overall rating Good

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