General anesthesia is often used for the following common procedures:
- Laparoscopic abdominal and pelvic procedures (gallbladder removal, intestine surgery, uterus removal, tubal ligation, etc)
- Open abdominal and pelvic procedures (intestine surgery, prostate removal)
- Chest or breast surgery
- Shoulder surgery
- Surgery in the mouth or throat
- Face or neck surgery
- Any major surgery when patient's medical issues make other techniques contraindicated
General anesthesia involves the administration of medications that cause a complete loss of consciousness. In other words, while under general anesthesia you are in a very deep sleep. The medications are administered by intravenous or inhaled routes.
Some forms of general anesthesia impair the body's ability to breath without assistance. For this reason, we frequently need to place some type of artificial airway in the mouth or nose to assist breathing. Breathing tubes usually are placed after the patient is asleep and removed before the patient wakes up. A mild to moderate sore throat is common after general anesthesia with a breathing tube. Very rarely, placement of a breathing tube will damage teeth, the inside of the mouth, the nasal passage, or the vocal cords.
While under general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist monitors the patient's vital signs closely. Your oxygen levels, blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, concentration of expired gases, breathing volumes and respiratory rate are measured continuously while you are asleep. If indicated, for a major surgery, your anesthesiologist may place a special blood pressure monitor into an artery in your wrist which measures your blood pressure every time your heart beats. Your anesthesiologist will also administer pain medication, nausea medication, intravenous fluids and blood products as indicated during or after your surgery.
After the procedure is completed, the anesthetic medications are turned off and you regain awareness gradually while in the recovery room. Some patients, even though they may appear to be awake, do not have any recollection of events until one or two hours after the surgery is finished. Elderly patients may experience even longer periods of amnesia or confusion after general anesthesia. While in the recovery room your anesthesiologist will oversee your care and discharge you from the recovery room when appropriate.