Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

During surgery, the anaesthetist will constantly monitor you.

During surgery, the anaesthetist will constantly monitor you.
beginning of content

General anaesthetic

2-minute read

An anaesthetic is a medicine given to block the feeling of pain or another sensation. A general anaesthetic is used to make you unconscious so you will not feel pain, move or be aware during surgery.

Preparing for a general anaesthetic

You will usually meet with a specialist doctor called an anaesthetist before the surgery. That might be in the few days before your surgery, or it might be in the hour before surgery.

Your anaesthetist will ask you about your health and how you have dealt with anaesthetics in the past. They may also ask about the medicines you take, whether you have allergies and whether or not you smoke.

You should provide any medical information you may have from a previous anaesthetist.

Your anaesthetist may explain the surgery to you, along with what could possibly go wrong. They may ask you to sign a form, known as a consent form, which says you agree to the surgery and understand everything about it. If so, this is the time to ask all the questions you may have been wondering about.

Your anaesthetist may also arrange tests to prepare you for surgery.

They may advise you:

  • what medicines you should and should not take before and on the day of surgery
  • what you can eat and drink before surgery

You should discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor or anaesthetist.

During surgery

The general anaesthetic will usually be injected into a vein, usually on the back of your hand, through a thin plastic tube called a cannula. Alternatively, it may be given as a gas that you inhale through a mask.

During surgery, the anaesthetist will monitor your level of consciousness, your temperature, your breathing and your blood pressure. The amount of anaesthetic you have can be adjusted if necessary.

After surgery

When you wake from the anaesthetic, you will feel sleepy. You might feel nauseous. You will probably be in an area known as the recovery room. A nurse will monitor you. You may need medications to reduce nausea or pain.

If you are staying in hospital, you will be transferred back to your own bed once you are fully awake.

If you are going home after day surgery, you will wait until you are fully conscious and alert. You should not drive home after an anaesthetic. It is best to arrange for someone to pick you up or help you get home. It is best if you are with someone for the next 24 hours after surgery so they can keep an eye on you.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Spinal Anaesthesia | HealthEngine Blog

For information on spinal anaesthesia or epidural anaesthesia.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Nerve Blocks (Regional Anaesthesia) | HealthEngine Blog

Medical information about nerve blocks regional anaesthesia for treatment of pain

Read more on HealthEngine website

Anaesthesia and day surgery | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is general anaesthesia? A general anaesthetic is a mixture of medicines that put your child into a deep sleep during which they will not be aware or feel pain

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Anaesthetics | HealthEngine Blog

Anaesthesia is a word derived from the greek which literally translated means lack of feeling. More accurately, it describes both having no feeling in the literal sense and no emotion; not caring. This is quite an accurate description of the state induced during an operation as simply being unconscious (asleep) is not necessarily what it is about. There are numerous other ways to have an operation and regardless of what anaesthetic option is chosen by your anaesthesia provider, the part of your body that will be operated on will be made to have no feeling (see regional anaesthesia) and you will be made calm and uncaring about your surroundings.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Duration of Anaesthesia

How long will the local anaesthetic effect last? This depends on the type of local anaesthetic used and the region of the body into which it is injected.

Read more on ANZCA – Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists website

General anaesthetics - Better Health Channel

An anaesthetic is a drug or agent that produces a complete or partial loss of feeling.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Epidural

Epidural is highly effective local anaesthetic procedure includes injectind anaesthetic around the spinal nerves in your lower back.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Epidurals - myDr.com.au

Learn about the anaesthetic procedure often used in childbirth, known as an epidural.

Read more on myDr website

Epidurals and childbirth - ANZCA

Regional anaesthesia (epidural, combined spinal-epidural or spinal) is used in approximately one third of labouring women.

Read more on ANZCA – Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists website

RANZCOG WEBSITE - Pain Relief in Labour and Childbirth

An epidural is a procedure where an anaesthetic (a drug that gives either partial or total loss of sensation) is injected into the small space in your back near your spinal cord by a specialist anaesthetist

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo