General anesthesia refers to the state in which the patient is placed on an induced state of total unconsciousness. The method is developed in order to provide safe environment for surgical procedures and thus improve the patients discomfort to a great extent. Although the procedure has been developed to maximally safe levels, still there is a possibility of anesthetic related complications and deaths due to general anesthesia.
Before undergoing surgery which makes use of general anesthesia, a patient will be evaluated thoroughly in order to assess his or her fitness to undergo such surgery while they are on anesthesia. The anesthetist will decide on the probable method of anesthesia depending on the patient’s age, underlying medical problems, previous history of anesthesia and the surgical procedure that the patient is hoping to undergo.
Once a decision is made to continue with general anesthesia, further evaluations would be done in order to identify any risk factors for anesthesia related complications. The anesthetist might want to start the patient on certain medications to relax the muscles and to reduce the anxiety levels just prior to the surgery.
On the table procedures:
In the theater, the anesthetic process will begin on the theater table. The anesthetist will explain the procedure and will be talking to you all the time. The initial process would be to secure a venous access through an IV cannula. This would not be necessary if it had already been done in the ward. Most often, a saline drip will be connected to the cannula and will run through the surgical procedure. This will be a method to compensate for fluid loss as well as a means of giving continuous dosage of certain medications.
Following the explanation, the anesthetist will connect few electrodes into your chest and a cuff to your arm. A small sensor will be attached to a finger tip as well. The electrodes will provide the anesthetist with a first hand look at the patients heart rate and its pattern and the cuff will be inflated and deflated automatically to measure the blood pressure. The sensor attached to the finger tip would give a reading of the pulse rate as well as the amount of oxygen concentration in the peripheral circulation. These indicators will guide the amounts of drugs given to control heart function, reduce excessive blood pressures as well as to maintain adequate oxygen concentration.
Induction of anesthesia:
Thereafter, a mask will be held against your nose and the mouth and gas will be used to make you sleepy and thus induce the anesthesia. Apart from this method, an injectable form of anesthetic agents as well as muscle relaxants will also be given according to the requirement. These drugs will act quickly within few minutes and will put you into a deep sleep where you will be devoid of all sensations, although this has been argued by many.
While the patient is under anesthesia, the anesthetist will insert an endotracheal tube to maintain the airways as and when necessary. This will prevent the arrest of respiratory function as the respiratory muscles can also get relaxed due to the anesthetic agents. Thus, the tube will channel the oxygen to the lungs and will readily inflate the lungs under the anesthetic machine control.
The amount of drug given for induction and maintenance would depend on the duration of the surgery as well as complexity.
Following completion of the surgery, the anesthetist will administer analgesic agents to relieve the pain and would give certain medications as well as recovering agents.
A patient recovering from general anesthesia will take a few hours depending on the patient factors as well as the anesthetic agent used and would take few more hours to gain full consciousness.
These procedures can vary from surgery to surgery and in some instances, from institute to institute.