General Anesthesia is an anesthetic technique in which the patient's body is insensate to surgical pain while the patient is totally unconscious during the surgery. It may be used as the primary anesthetic or in conjunction with a regional anesthesia based on the surgeon or the patient's preference.
On arrival to the prep area at the ASC you will meet the members of the anesthesia care team, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and the attending anesthesiologist. The risks and benefits of the procedure will be discussed with you before you sign your consent. Once the surgeon, operating room (OR) and OR team are ready, you will then be transferred to the operating room.
You will receive some sedation through your intravenous prior to your transfer to the OR, which will help you relax prior to your general anesthesia. Once in the OR, you will be asked to move onto the operating room table, then the usual monitors will be attached: a blood pressure cuff, a light sensor to measure your blood oxygen level will be attached to your finger, and EKG leads will be placed on your chest.
The Anesthesia care team will ask you to take a couple of deep breaths of oxygen. They will then place medication into your intravenous to start the general anesthesia. You may feel a warm burning sensation at the intravenous site when this medicine is injected which is normal. Once you are asleep an airway will be placed into the back of you mouth, which moves you tongue aside so you can breathe on your own, and in rare instances a breathing tube will be placed in your windpipe. The general anesthesia will then be maintained with a mixture of anesthetic gases you breathe into your lungs and intravenous pain medication. Your vital signs will continually be monitored throughout the anesthetic.
Once the surgical procedure is complete, the airway or the breathing tube will be removed and the anesthetic gases shut off. As you breathe off the anesthetic gases you will gradually wake up.
You will then be transferred to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit and your care will be transferred to the PACU nurses. What patients remember of the experience is quite variable. You may or may not remember waking up in the OR and you may not even recall your PACU stay due to the amnestic effects of the anesthetic medications.
As with any anesthetic, there are inherent risks associated with general anesthesia and fortunately serious complications are extremely rare. Prior to signing your consent the anesthesiologist will ask you if you understand the common and uncommon risks, side effects, and possible complications of general anesthesia listed on the anesthesia consent form. He or she will also answer any questions you may have.