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General anaesthetic

A general anaesthetic is a combination of drugs that produce a deep sleep so you won't feel anything during surgery.

What is general anaesthetic?

A general anaesthetic is a combination of drugs that produce deep sleep. It is used for operations or procedures as it causes a loss of sensation. You will not be aware of what is happening and afterwards you will not remember anything that has happened.

What are the benefits of a general anaesthetic?

You need to have an operation or procedure. So that your surgeon or doctor can perform the operation safely, you need to be in a state where you do not move and your muscles are relaxed. A safe way to achieve this is to give you a general anaesthetic.

Are there any alternative to ageneral anaesthetic?

Other forms of anaesthesia include injections near the area of surgery (local anaesthetic) or injections of local anaesthetic near major nerves or your spinal cord (regional, epidural or spinal anaesthetic). Local anaesthetics will numb the area to be operated on but you will be awake or under sedation for the operation.

How is general anaesthetic given?

Most people are sent to sleep by injecting the anaesthetic through a drip (small tube) in a vein. On average, it takes about 30 seconds to work.For some people it may be more appropriate to go to sleep by breathing an anaesthetic gas through a face mask. This method also takes about 30 seconds to work. You will be kept asleep either by giving you more of the same anaesthetic into the vein or by breathing anaesthetic gases. When the operation has finished, the anaesthetic wears off, allowing you to wake up again.

Is a general anaesthetic safe?

A general anaesthetic is safe for most people. Your anaesthetist may need to do some tests before the operation to assess how safe a general anaesthetic is for you. The tests will vary and may include the following:

  • Blood tests to check for anaemia (your body not producing enough healthy red blood cells)
  • ECG (electrocardiogram) to record the electric activity of your heart
  • Lung-function tests

What complications can happen?

Like all surgical procedures, there are some complications that can be serious and can even cause death. Please bear in mind the general and specific complications regarding this type of operation.

Minor complications (not disabling or life-threatening)

  • Feeling or being sick after the operation
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle and back pains
  • Dental damage
  • Difficulty passing urine

Serious complications

  • Loss or change of hearing
  • Eye injury
  • Nerve injury
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Chest infection and other breathing problems
  • Allergic reaction

How soon will I recover?

A general anaesthetic can affect your judgement and reactions for 24 hours. If you are fit and maintain a healthy weight, you are more likely to do well after having a general anaesthetic.


A general anaesthetic is usually a safe and effective way for you to have an operation or procedure. Most people do not have any. To find out more, call us on 0808 101 0337.

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