Text Only Version A | A | A

General anaesthetic

You will need to fast for several hours before having a general anaesthetic.  It is important that you follow the fasting instructions - otherwise you may not be treated on the day of your appointment

General anaesthetic is given by an anaesthetist.

VIDEO: General Anaesthetic

What is an anaesthetist?

An anaesthetist is a doctor with specialist training and is responsible for giving you anaesthetic and caring for you while you are drowsy or asleep. Anaesthetic drugs are injected into a vein, usually in the back of your hand, through a cannula (a very fine plastic tube). The anaesthetist will stay with you throughout your procedure to make sure you are safe and well.

Once your treatment is finished the anaesthetic drugs will wear off very quickly.

Where do I go to sleep?

You will go to sleep or be sedated in the operating theatre and someone will be with you at all times.

Where do I wake up?

After your treatment, you will normally wake up or come around in the recovery area. Our specially trained staff will look after you and when they are happy that you have recovered from your anaesthetic or sedation you will be able to move from the recovery area.

We will encourage you to be up and about as soon as possible after the treatment.

Are there any rules I must follow?

VIDEO: General Anaesthetic - rules to follow

Yes there are, and it is very important that you follow these instructions or you may not be able to have the anaesthetic that was planned. The most important rule is that you must stop eating and drinking for a period of time before a general anaesthetic.

Eating and drinking before a general anaesthetic

6 hours before your appointment:
Stop eating. You must not have milk, fizzy drinks or juice with pulp. You must not suck sweets either.

6 to 2 hours before your appointment:
You can drink sips of clear liquids (only water, black tea and black coffee without sugar or milk). You can chew gum.

2 hours before your appointment:
Stop drinking sips of clear liquids and stop chewing gum. Do not eat, drink or chew gum.

It is very important that you follow these instructions about eating and drinking. If you don’t, it may be unsafe for us to treat you and your procedure may be cancelled, or you may not be able to have the anaesthetic you wanted.

You can eat and drink normally after your treatment.

What about alcohol?
Do not drink alcohol for 24 hours before your appointment time.

Getting home

You must not drive yourself home after a general anaesthetic. If you intend to drive the anaesthetist may refuse to treat you. We recommend that you do not drive any vehicle for 24 hours. Driving during that time may mean prosecution under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 relating to driving under the influence of drugs.

We strongly recommend that someone accompanies you home and stays with you for 24 hours after your treatment. This should be an adult who can look after you. If you are under 16 years of age a responsible adult must take you home.

You should not operate machinery for 24 hours after your general anaesthetic

Air Travel following surgical abortion with general anaesthetic

Please inform us if you need to travel by air following your surgery. Flights of 4 hours or more should be avoided for up to 48 hours after receiving your general anaesthetic

We advise that:

  • If you need to fly after general anaesthesia or conscious sedation you should only do so, if you flight begins more than 12 hours after receiving your sedative or anaesthetic.
  • You must be accompanied by a responsible adult who can seek medical help should you become unwell
  • You should only catch your flight if you feel well and are not experiencing any of these symptoms: dizzy, lightheaded, nausea or vomiting, heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain

What about drugs and medication?

Any drugs can affect your reaction to the anaesthetic. If you are taking medication, please tell us what you are taking and the last time you took it. If you are taking recreational drugs, please be open and honest with us as they can also affect your anaesthetic. Anything you tell us will be kept in confidence.

Side effects and complications of general anaesthetic

Significant, unavoidable or frequently occurring risks

  • feeling sick and vomiting after surgery
  • sore throat (if we need to help you breathe during surgery)
  • dizziness or blurred vision
  • headache
  • itching
  • aches, pains and backache
  • pain during the injection of the drugs
  • bruising and soreness
  • confusion or memory loss
  • chest infection
  • bladder problems
  • muscle pains
  • slow breathing (depressed respiration)
  • damage to lips, teeth or tongue
  • an existing medical condition getting worse
  • awareness (becoming conscious during your treatment)
  • damage to the eyes/serious allergy to drugs
  • nerve damage
  • death*
    * deaths caused by anaesthetic are very rare and are usually caused by several complications happening together