General anesthesia

General anesthesia makes you both unconscious and unable to feel pain during medical procedures. General anesthesia is commonly produced by a combination of intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses (anesthetics).

The "sleep" you experience under general anesthesia is different from regular sleep. The anesthetized brain doesn't respond to pain signals or surgical manipulations.

An anesthesiologist is a specially trained doctor who specializes in all types of anesthesia, including general anesthesia. After you're asleep (unconscious), your body's vital functions are monitored and your breathing is assisted and controlled.

In many hospitals, an anesthesiologist and another team member, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), work together throughout your procedure to carry out these tasks.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect

Besides general anesthesia, other forms of anesthesia may provide only light sedation or use injections to numb only a small area (local anesthesia) or a larger region (regional anesthesia) of your body.

Your doctor will discuss with you the risks and benefits of the various options for anesthesia. He or she may recommend general anesthesia for procedures that:

  • Take a long time
  • Include significant blood loss
  • Expose you to a cold environment
  • Affect your breathing, such as chest or upper abdominal surgery
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