A general anaesthetic, often referred to as simply a “GA”, is used to make you fall asleep and feel no pain during an operation.
You are given the anaesthetic by a specially trained doctor called an anaesthetist.
Doing the business
When under general anaesthetic you sleep more deeply that you normally do at night. So it’s very important that you do avoid eating for some time before the GA, because if you were to be sick while under anaesthetic there is a risk that the fluid could enter your lungs and make you ill.
To help you breathe more easily during the procedure you will have a tube placed in your mouth. It’s for this reason that the doctor needs to know about your teeth and will ask if you have any caps or crowns and where precisely in your mouth there are.
The most uncomfortable part of the anaesthetic is the small needle which is put into a vein in the back of your hand before the operation. Thirty minutes before the needle is inserted the nurse will apply a special numbing cream called Ametop to ease the discomfort.
Your parents can stay with you until you fall asleep but will not be able to come to the operating theatre. Once you are asleep you will go into the theatre for your operation and will afterwards be brought back to the ward with the nurse. When you are starting to wake up the nurse will bring your parents to see you again.
Sometimes you will wake up after a GA with a sore throat. This can be due to the tube that is used to help you breathe during the operation. The soreness usually disappears after a day and can be relieved by sucking boiled sweets.
Some people feel sick after having a GA, but this depends on the individual and the type of surgery they have had. Let the anaesthetist know if you suffer from motion sickness or have previously been sick after an anaesthetic, and they will give you some medication to help.
Does it work?
Because the GA makes you fall asleep and lie still, the doctor is able to carry out the operation without interruption.
Although having a GA is not in itself dangerous, any such procedure can still involve a small degree of risk. Every measure is taken to make sure that the risk is absolutely minimal. An anaesthetist will always carefully assess your suitability and decide whether you are healthy enough to undergo a GA. The medical staff who carry out this procedure are highly trained and experienced, and will take every precaution to guarantee your safety at all times.
Article reviewed by Moorfields Children’s Information Group
Last Reviewed: 08/10/08