How is general anesthesia administered?

General anesthesia can be administered via an IV line, gas, or a combination of both. Patients often are given an IV injection first to induce unconsciousness. The gas then prolongs and maintains the effect. (Sometimes, injected anesthetics maintain the correct level of anesthesia without the need for gas.) Usually, the gas is isoflurane or desflurane combined with nitrous oxide.

Sedatives (such as Valium), Ketamine and depressants can be injected into an IV that was inserted before surgery. Additionally, the person administering anesthesia might give a muscle relaxant to ensure deeper paralysis, this is especially true if the operation involves major organs.

As surgery ends, the IV anesthetic is discontinued and the gases are turned off. Patients go to a PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) and are monitored closely. Often, warm IV fluids are provided to counteract both the dehydration that can result from anesthesia and the shivering from body temperature changes. As the analgesic effect of the anesthetic wears off, patients also receive some form of pain relief. Depending on the surgery, this could be an oral medication or even morphine. Some people recover within an hour. Others take longer to completely awaken.

After awakening, it's possible you'll deal with lasting side effects: nausea, vomiting, and numbness in the area where the surgery was performed. You'll probably feel disoriented and might require assistance to get around.

It is also important to mention that serious risks are associated with general anesthesia, including allergic reaction, organ failure, suffocation, stroke and death. You should discuss these concerns with your doctor before your surgery.

General anesthesia may be administered through a plastic tube called a cannula that goes into the hand. A nurse may put some cream on the back of the hand to make it numb so it doesn't hurt. Sometimes people breathe in the anesthesia through a mask.

The anesthesia can affect the way the stomach works, so the doctor might tell people to skip breakfast on the day of their operation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.