Addressing Anesthesia: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Your Procedure

Surgery can be nerve-wracking. It isn’t just the procedure patients fear. Being put under anesthesia is frightening for some patients, eliciting questions they sometimes forget to ask when meeting with their doctor. 

If you are about to have surgery and have some questions about anesthesia, this guide will tell you everything you need to know before getting your procedure.

What is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a medical treatment that prevents patients from feeling pain during procedures. Doctors also administer anesthesia for medical procedures to achieve positive surgical outcomes. These procedures include:

  • Surgery
  • Tissue sample removal (e.g., skin biopsies)
  • Some screening
  • Diagnostic tests 

Some patients will have anesthesia administrated when having certain dental work done. To produce the desired effects, anesthesiologists administer drugs called anesthetics.

Doctors deliver these medications in various ways, including injection (through an IV), inhalation, skin patches, eye drops, and topical lotions.

How Long are Patients Kept Under Anesthesia?

Generally, patients can be kept under for as long as necessary for the doctor to perform the surgical procedure, which can sometimes take hours. However, there are various factors doctors must consider when administering anesthesia, including:

  • Age
  • Weight, height, and body mass
  • Medical history
  • Comorbidities and previous diagnoses 
  • Pre-operative complications

Patients with risk factors are generally never kept under for longer than four hours. The doctor will keep you under as long as the surgery takes, as long as you don’t have any risk factors that concern your doctor. Your doctor can let you know the range of time that should take.

The Difference Between Local vs. General Anesthesia

There are two types of anesthesia:

Local Anesthetics  

This form of anesthetic numbs a region of the body and does not make the patient completely unconscious. It works by suppressing your brain’s ability to process pain. Doctors administer local anesthetics when performing more superficial surgeries or less intrusive procedures.

General Anesthetics  

You will experience complete unconsciousness when given general anesthesia. It works by directly sedating the brain so that pain receptors cannot receive pain signals. There are various types of general anesthesia doctors will use depending on the procedure, the patient, or the desired brand.

What to Expect When Coming Out of Anesthesia

After the procedure, the doctor will administer medications that reverse the anesthetic effects of the anesthesia. While you recover, medical staff will monitor your vital signs and ask questions about your pain levels. Doctors might prescribe additional pain medications, like narcotics, if your experience pain as you come out of anesthesia.

Possible Side Effects

The following is a list of possible side effects. If you experience any of the ones denoted with an asterisk (*) seek medical attention immediately.

  • Temporary confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shivering
  • Sore throat (from breathing tube)
  • Bruising (at administration site)
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Headaches
  • Migraines*
  • Rapid heart rate*
  • Chest pains or heart palpitations*
  • Fainting*
  • Chronic dizziness* or confusion*
  • Coughing*
  • Seizures*

Find an Anesthesiologist You Can Trust

Dr. Binder is a board-certified surgeon in Plastic and Reconstructive and Otolaryngology Surgery, trusted in his field for more than 30 years. Dr. Binder only partners with the best. When you schedule a procedure with Dr. Binder, you know your surgical anesthesiologist is someone you can trust.

If you have more questions about anesthesia, reach out to a member of Dr. Binder’s team before your next surgical procedure.