General Anesthesia

What the Term General Anesthesia Means

operating room
Joos Mind/Stone/Getty Images

Definition: General anesthesia is a type of sedation that uses several medications to render the patient unconscious and unable to move.

General Anesthesia

There are many types of anesthesia that can be given for surgical procedures.  Some merely numb the area of the procedure, while general anesthesia makes the patient sleep through the procedure.  General anesthesia also paralyzes the patient.  This paralysis affects most of the muscles of the body, including the lungs, but does not stop the heart from working.

Once the medications are given, a breathing tube is placed into the patient's airway and connected with a tube to the ventilator.   The patient remains on the ventilator through the surgery and stays on the ventilator until they are able to breathe on their own, without the assistance of the ventilator.  

Stopping General Anesthesia

For many patients, a medication is given to reverse the effects of general anesthesia, which helps the patient wake more quickly and have the breathing tube removed.  For other surgeries, particularly open heart procedures, the anesthesia is allowed to wear off on its own, which may take six or more hours. 

How General Anesthesia is Given

The medications that are given for general anesthesia are given in two ways: through an IV and mixed with oxygen and inhaled. This combination of medications is necessary because it insures that the patient is unaware of any pain caused by surgery and also prevents the patient from moving during surgery, potentially causing a surgical error.


Pronunciation: an-es-thee-zhuh

Also Known As: anesthesia, total anesthesia,

Alternate Spellings: anesthaesia

Examples: General anesthesia was used during my surgery so I don't remember the procedure.

Continue Reading