General anesthesia: what it consists of and what are its risks

General anesthesia is a medical procedure used simultaneously with surgery. It can even be said that it makes the surgery easier to carry out. For this, a combination of medications is used that induces a state of unconsciousness, similar to the dream.

This state is induced before surgery, is maintained during the operation, and lasts slightly longer than the procedure. Specifically, it has several objectives; one of them is to prevent the patient from suffering pain during the intervention. On the other hand, it is intended to facilitate the surgeon's work. For this, there is muscle relaxation and control of breathing and vital signs.

Its mode of application is intravenous or, sometimes, with the combination of inhaled anesthetic gases. When is it necessary? What risks does it cause? Regarding its use there are several doubts. For this reason, we will tell you more about it below.

Why is general anesthesia done?

Before surgery, the anesthesiologist -in conjunction with the surgeon- will recommend the best anesthesia option. This choice will depend on the type of surgery to be performed and the general health of the patient.

In some cases, other techniques including sedation can be used, without being general anesthesia. Nevertheless, the latter is necessary for certain procedures, such as those that have the following characteristics:

  • They last several hours.
  • Without anesthesia they would be too painful.
  • They can produce anxiety or psychological impact.
  • There may be considerable blood loss.
  • The cold in the operating room can affect the patient.
  • They require control of breathing (chest or upper abdominal surgery).

Factors Considered Before General Anesthesia

The anesthesiologist is the doctor in charge of evaluating the patient. This is to find out if the health history or treatments a person receives could interfere with general anesthesia.

To do this, the professional asks a series of questions, beyond the health problem that is motivating the surgery. It is very important that medical history and family history are addressed without omitting the following health details:

  • Treatments or medications that are taken regularly. It includes the consumption of vitamin supplements or medicinal plants.
  • Previous surgeries.
  • Blood transfusions
  • Known allergies to foods, medications, products such as latex, among others.
  • Consumption of tobacco, alcoholic beverages or drugs.
  • Recent infections, particularly of the respiratory tract.
  • Probability of being pregnant.

This information will help the anesthesiologist choose the anesthetics that are safest for you.

Risks and side effects of general anesthesia

In most cases, general anesthesia is considered safe. Nevertheless, there are certain risks among older adults and people with serious medical problems or requiring invasive medical procedures. However, the risks are more likely to be from the surgery itself, rather than from the anesthesia.

After the intervention, it is normal to feel general discomfort or pain. Therefore, it is necessary to determine if a particular symptom is due to the operation or anesthesia. After the surgical procedure is complete, the symptoms may be as follows:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pains.
  • Sore throat (caused by placing a tube in the windpipe to breathe).
  • Chills and hypothermia (feeling cold).
  • Confusion or disorientation

These side effects are usually not serious and can be managed in the recovery room. Most are transitory and resolve in a short time.

It may interest you: Dental anesthesia and analgesia in dentistry

How to prepare for a general anesthesia?

First of all, the surgeon usually talks with the patient to explain the procedure. In the same way, the anesthesiologist will clarify all related doubts. This part is considered relevant, since it reduces the anxiety generated by the intervention. Next, we detail the most important points of the process.


Try to follow all the indications of the doctors, especially the fasting time that they have indicated. In certain cases, you can moisten your mouth with water, but it is very important to get to the operating room fasting.

The doctor will tell you from when you should stop some of the medications you take. For example, Aspirin must be stopped for a week before the procedure. This indication also applies to vitamin supplements and herbalists.


From a few minutes before starting the surgery, the anesthesiologist will take care of the anesthesia and your vital signs. Very often sedation is initiated through an IV placed in the arm or wrist. You can also apply an anesthetic gas through a face mask.

Today, the process of a general anesthesia is considered by most anesthesiologists as a safe event. During surgery, The anesthesiologist attends, above all else, to the safety of the patient.

At present, the application of general anesthesia is considered safe for most people.


At the conclusion of the surgery, the anesthesiologist applies the medication to reverse the anesthesia. This is with the intention of the patient waking up slowly, usually in the recovery room. It is normal to feel a little light-headed and confused when opening your eyes. The person is also likely to have a dry mouth and a desire to sleep.

Upon awakening from anesthesia, and depending on the type of surgery, pain or other symptoms may be experienced. If so, it is necessary to report it to the recovery room staff to receive the appropriate treatment to alleviate it.

What to remember about general anesthesia?

It is normal to feel anxious before a surgical procedure that involves general anesthesia. Still, keep in mind that it is currently considered safe in almost all cases. Medications, equipment, and safety standards make this possible.

Therefore, most people do not have complications during or after receiving this type of anesthesia. Contrary to this, their quality of life improves after the intervention.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *