Having a general anaesthetic


A general anaesthetic gives a state of controlled unconsciousness. This is like being asleep and you do not feel any pain.

For all anaesthetics, you are attached to monitors to measure your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.

How the anaesthetic is given

Before you have an anaesthetic, we usually give you pure oxygen with a plastic mask.

We inject the general anaesthetic medicines through a thin plastic tube into a vein in the back of your hand or arm.

The anaesthetist tells you when you will be given the anaesthetic.

You become unconscious within a minute or so. The anaesthetist continues to give you medicine to keep you unconscious.

During your operation

When the anaesthetist is satisfied that your condition is stable, you are taken into the operating theatre.

Throughout your anaesthetic and operation, the theatre staff look after you and treat you with care and dignity.

After your operation

Waking up

At the end of the operation, the anaesthetist stops giving you the anaesthetic medicine and you start to wake up.

When we are certain that you are recovering normally, we take you to the recovery room. You usually wake up in the recovery room. Nurses monitor you until you are fully awake.

We give you oxygen through a plastic mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Tell the nurses if you are in pain or feel sick. They can then give you treatment.

Leaving hospital or going to your ward

When the nurses are satisfied that you have recovered from your anaesthetic, you can leave hospital or to return to the ward.

If you need to stay in hospital, we will discuss this with you before your surgery. Sometimes, the plan might change.

Eating and drinking after surgery

How long before you can start to eat or drink depends on the type of operation you have.

After minor surgery, you might be able to eat and drink when you feel ready. Even after major surgery, you might feel like sitting up and having something to eat or drink within an hour of regaining consciousness.

Ask the doctors or nurses if you are not sure.

Resource number: 2737/VER5
Last reviewed: June 2023
Next review: June 2026

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Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about having an anaesthetic, please contact the team caring for you.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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