General Anaesthetic

A general anaesthetic is several different types of drugs used to put you to sleep during an operation or procedure so that you do not feel any pain.

What is a general anaesthetic?

‘Anaesthesia’ means loss of sensation. A general anaesthetic puts you into unconsciousness. It is used for surgical operations where it is safer or more comfortable for you to be asleep. This is usually for operations that are long or that would be very painful without it.

A general anaesthetic is a combination of medicines used to:

  • put you to sleep
  • cause loss of sensation, so you don’t feel pain
  • relax your muscles

Before your operation, anaesthetic drugs are either injected into your vein or given to you as anaesthetic gases through a mask to breathe into your lungs. These drugs are carried in your bloodstream to your brain. You should fall asleep within a minute or so.

Your anaesthetist will ensure you receive enough general anaesthetic to stay unconscious throughout your surgery. They may also give you: oxygen via a tube in your mouth; medicines to relax your muscles; blood pressure controlling medicines; intravenous fluids to keep you hydrated; and strong painkillers to prevent pain during and after your procedure. Your pulse, blood pressure and breathing will be monitored all of the time you are under general anaesthetic.

How long does it take for a general anaesthetic to leave your system?

A general anaesthetic may stay in your system for around 24 hours and longer for major operations. It can affect your memory, concentration and reflexes during this time.

If you are allowed to go home after your procedure, it is important that you have a responsible adult stay with you for at least 24 hours.

What are the 4 stages of general anaesthesia?

Doctors created a safety monitoring system to explain the four stages of anaesthesia:

  • Stage 1: Induction stage – starts when you first take the medication until you go to sleep. Breathing is slow and regular. You are calm but able to talk for a while. You lose the ability to feel pain.
  • Stage 2: Excitement or delirium – marked by uncontrolled movements, fast heartbeat and irregular breathing. There is an increased risk of your airways becoming compromised. Your anaesthetist will get you through this stage as fast as possible.
  • Stage 3: Surgical anaesthesia – this is when surgery can take place. Your eyes stop moving and do not react to light, your muscles completely relax, and you may intermittently stop breathing without machine support. Your anaesthetist will keep you at this stage until the procedure is over.
  • Stage 4: Overdose - too much anaesthesia results in your brain stopping to tell your heart and lungs to work which can be fatal. This is rare these days with the continual monitoring of an anaesthetist using modern technology.

What happens to your body under general anaesthesia?

General anaesthesia puts you in a sleep-like state. It interrupts the nerve signals in your brain and body. It prevents your brain from processing pain so you will feel nothing. You will also have no memory of what happened during your surgery.

What does a general anaesthetic feel like?

A general anaesthetic should take effect very quickly. You will start to feel lightheaded and then become unconscious within a minute or so.

What is the recovery process after a general anaesthetic?

When you wake up after a general anaesthetic, you will be in an area known as the recovery room. You will feel sleepy and you may also feel nauseous. One of our nurses will monitor you and can arrange medications to reduce nausea or pain if needed.

If you have day surgery, you can expect to go home once you are conscious and alert. You should not drive yourself home after a general anaesthetic. You should arrange for someone to pick you up and to stay with you for the next 24 hours after surgery.

You should also avoid drinking alcohol, signing any legal documents, cooking, using any dangerous equipment or looking after children for 24 to 48 hours.

What is the cost of a general anaesthetic?

The cost of a general anaesthetic will depend on: the exact anaesthetic medications; your procedure; and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price for your surgery that includes your general anaesthetic costs, after a consultation with one of our expert surgeons. This formal quote will be valid for 60 days and includes unlimited aftercare.

A general anaesthetic is typically covered by health insurance as part of your surgery costs for medically necessary procedures. You should obtain written confirmation from your insurance provider before starting your treatment.

If you are paying for your surgery and general anaesthesia yourself, we have a number of finance options. These include:

  • Interest-free finance - no deposit required and 0% interest monthly instalments.
  • All-inclusive Total Care - a one-off pre-agreed payment for all the treatment you need. Our Total care packages include your operating drugs.
  • Pay as you go – a flexible funding option for difficult to assess treatment costs or for those who want to pay treatment costs as and when they arise.

General anaesthetic at Ramsay Health Care

You can rest assured that our expert Consultant Anaesthetists will provide the best option of anaesthesia for you based on your health, procedure and preferences.

Your anaesthetist will listen to and discuss any concerns. They will stay with and monitor you throughout your operation. We work in partnership with consultant anaesthetists who are highly experienced, members of The Royal College of Anaesthetists, and used to working as part of our multi-disciplinary team to provide holistic high-quality and patient-centred care.

Ramsay Health Care hospitals are committed to providing care in a safe environment at all times. All of our hospitals have put in place strict protocols to minimise the risk of infection, including Covid-19.  

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