General Anesthesia

What is general anesthesia?
General anesthesia is when an anesthesiologist uses a combination of medicines in order to render you unconscious. There are three main components needed for general anesthesia.

  • Hypnosis - This is when your body goes to sleep and you become unaware of any of the events in the operating room.
  • Relaxation –Your muscles are relaxed to help the surgeon perform the operation.
  • Analgesia –This component involves administering medication to ensure that you have no pain during the procedure.

Do I need to take anything before I am anesthetized?
Before anesthesia it is important that you follow the pre-operative instructions given to you by your physician. Your anesthesiologist may prescribe medication to take prior to anesthesia. Depending on your specific medical needs, it is extremely important that you do not take medications that were not prescribed or were not discussed with your doctor. For a copy of Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants Pre-Op Brochure please click here.

Where is general anesthesia administered?
The commencement of general anesthesia is also called the induction of anesthesia. This typically occurs in either the operating room itself or a special anesthesia room.

How is anesthesia medicine administered?
The anesthesia medications can be given in two forms.

  • Intravenously - Medications are given intravenously by injection into an IV. This is the fastest way to administer anesthesia, and it typically takes 10-20 seconds before you fall asleep.
  • Anesthesia Mask - When anesthesia is administered using a mask, the medications are in the form of a gas. You inhale the gas through the mask placed over your nose and mouth. This form of anesthesia induction is typically done with children.

What medications are used for general anesthesia?
Medications that are commonly used for anesthesia include, but are not limited to, benzodiazepines, narcotics, sedative/hypnotics, muscle relaxants and halogenated anesthetic gasses.

What are the most common procedures that use general anesthesia?
General anesthesia may be used for a variety of procedures, but heart, lung and abdominal surgery are the most common.

How are you able to breathe while under anesthesia?
Once you are put to sleep your muscles, including your lungs, are relaxed to allow for easier surgical access. To maintain ventilation a breathing tube is inserted after you been put to sleep, and your oxygen levels are monitored using a continuous pulse oximetry machine.

How do you monitor my heart and lung function when I am on anesthesia?
Before the start of the operation the anesthesia team will set up heart, blood pressure and breathing monitors. The anesthesia team continuously monitors you during the procedure keeping a close watch on your vital signs.

What type of equipment is used when the general anesthesia team is monitoring you?

  • Continuous Electrocardiogram (ECG) –a heart monitor that uses several electrodes to monitor your heart rate and rhythm
  • Continuous pulse oximetry (SpO2) – a device is placed on one of your fingers and monitors the oxygen level in your blood
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring – your anesthesiologist can monitor your blood pressure in two ways: non-invasive blood pressure monitoring and invasive blood pressure monitoring<
    • Non-invasive blood pressure monitoring – this is the most common form of blood pressure monitoring. It involves a cuff being placed around your arm, forearm or leg, allowing the blood pressure machine to take readings of your blood pressure throughout surgery
    • Invasive blood pressure monitoring (IBP) – this is only used during general anesthesia when a patient has more severe medical problems. It is placed when the anesthesiologist feels it is important to monitor your blood pressure with every beat of your heart. If IBP is needed a special type of plastic tube, called a cannula is placed into an artery

Are there risks associated with general anesthesia?
At Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants patient safety is extremely important. Although anesthesia can carry some risks, major side effects or complications are uncommon. You can be assured that our physicians are extremely qualified to handle your anesthesia care further minimizing these risks and compared to national benchmarks Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants provides superior anesthesia care.

  SAC* National Benchmark**
Cardiac Arrest 0.08% 0.44-1.72%
Myocardial Infraction 0.02% 0.19%
Stroke 0.01% < 1%
Anesthesia Awareness 0.01% 0.2%
Pulmonary Edema 0.04% 7.6%
Medication Errors 0.01% 5.26%
Difficult Intubation 0.25% 1.2-3.8%
Aspiration 0.05% 0.3%
Nausea and Vomiting 6.49% 25-30%

* In 2008, information was collected on 88,184 patients.

**National benchmarks were derived from “Evidence Based Practice of Anesthesiology”, The Institute of Medicine, and Medline

What are some of the potential risks of general anesthesia?
All operations and all anesthetics have some small risks, and they are dependent upon many factors including the type of surgery and the medical condition of the patient. Fortunately, adverse events are very rare. Your anesthesiologist takes precautions to prevent an accident from occurring, just as you do when driving a car or crossing the street. The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the condition of the patient. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.