General Anesthesia



General anesthesia is medicine used to put the entire body to sleep. It blocks the brain from feeling pain and keeps you unconscious. General anesthesia is given by doctors trained in anesthesia. They carefully balance the amount of medicine that is needed.

Possible Complications

Many steps are taken to prevent problems. Possible risks 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
  • Lung infections
  • Anesthesia awareness—where the patient becomes aware during the surgery, which is very rare
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Things that can increase the risk of problems are history of:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • 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.

a (Anesthesia, General)


American Association of Nurse Anesthetists 

American Society of Anesthesiologists 


Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society 

Health Canada 


Anesthesia—what to expect. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Accessed February 13, 2021.

General anesthesia. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: Accessed February 13, 2021.

Pollard R, Coyle J, Gilbert R, Beck J. Intraoperative awareness in a regional medical system: A review of 3 years' data. Anesthesiology. 2007;106(2)269-274.

Sackel DJ. Anesthesia awareness: an analysis of its incidence, the risk factors involved, and prevention. J Clin Anesth. 2006;18(7):483-485.