How general anaesthetic is given
An anaesthetist is a doctor who has been specially trained in anaesthesia. If you are having a general anaesthetic, it will be given to you either as a:
The anaesthetist will make sure that you continue to receive the anaesthetic and that you stay asleep, in a controlled state of unconsciousness.
After the procedure, the anaesthetist will reverse the anaesthetic and you will gradually wake up.
When general anaesthetic is used:
If you need to have a general anaesthetic, you will meet your anaesthetist and plan your anaesthetic together before surgery.
Your anaesthetist will look at your medical history and will ask you whether anyone in your family has had problems with anaesthesia. They will also ask you about your general health and lifestyle, including whether you:
Your anaesthetist will also be able to answer any questions you have. Let them know if you're unsure about any part of the procedure or if you have any worries or concerns. You should be given clear instructions to follow before the operation, including whether you can eat anything in the hours leading up to it.
General anaesthetic has some common side effects. Your anaesthetist should discuss these with you before your surgery. Most side effects occur immediately after your operation and do not last long. Possible side effects include:
During your operation, you may need to have a tube inserted down your throat to help you breathe. Afterwards, this causes a sore throat in about 40% of people.
Around 5% of people may have small cuts to their lips or tongue from the tube. Around 1 in 4,500 people may have damage to their teeth.
It is possible for a patient to wake during surgery and experience pain, although this is very rare. The chance of it happening has been greatly reduced by using monitors to measure the amount of anaesthetic being given.
Complications and risks
Some more serious complications are associated with general anaesthetics, but they are very rare (occurring in less than one case for every 10,000 anaesthetics given).
Possible complications include:
Complications are more likely to occur if you:
In most cases, the benefits of being pain-free during an operation outweigh the risks.