General anesthesia puts the entire body to sleep with the use of medications. It is a state of unconsciousness. During this time, the brain cannot feel any pain. It is often used for certain types of surgery or for a procedure that would make you uncomfortable if you were awake.
Doctors trained in anesthesia (anesthesiologists) carefully balance the amount of anesthesia medications given by closely monitoring the body’s functions. Medications are used to:
- Prevent pain
- Relax the muscles
- Regulate bodily functions
Every precaution is used to prevent complications. Often, medications are given in advance to prevent certain problems, such as nausea and vomiting. Even so, complications may occur. These may 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
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Lung infections
- Heart attack
- Anesthesia awareness—a rare complication where the patient becomes aware during the surgery
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
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.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Anesthesia, General)
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists http://www.aana.com
American Society of Anesthesiologists http://www.asahq.org
Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society http://www.cas.ca
Health Canada https://www. canada.ca
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