General Anaesthesia

The term 'general anaesthesia' refers to the experience of being put to sleep for an operation. In orthopaedics, general anaesthesia usually involves three components:

  • Sedation. Sedatives are drugs that put you to sleep. They are strong medications that often include a capacity to reduce your memory of the surgery as well as your consciousness during surgery.
  • Analgesia or Pain Relief.
  • Muscle Relaxation.

Together, the combination of these agents blocks your consciousness of surgery and reduces your pain. It also facillitates movement of your joints during surgery so the surgeon may position you as required.

Waking up or 'recovery' from general anaesthesia begins in the theatre, where your anaesthetist closely watches you while the sedatives are withdrawn. Initially, you will feel very drowsy, cold and often nauseus, but the theatre staff in the recovery room will be nearby to help.

In the first twenty-four hours after general anaesthesia you should have very little pain, as the pain-killers used during the operation will still be working. You can talk to the ward staff about additional pain-killers if needed.

It is normal to feel some degree of constipation and difficulty passing urine in the first day. In addition, you may

  • Have a mild headache
  • Feel a little drowsy and nauseous
  • Have a sore throat and scratchy voice from the tube inserted into the throat

When is general anaesthesia used?

General anaesthesia is used in many major surgeries.

What are the risks?

There are a number of risks associated with general anaesthesia, and more detail about these can be found here.


Are there alternatives?

In some cases, it is possible to use a combination of other techniques instead of general anaesthetic. This will usually involve;

  • Drugs that cause a light sleep (sedatives) and/or help you relax and forget the operation plus muscle relaxants
  • Other techniques of anaesthesia to numb the area (eg spinal or regional blocks)


What should I tell my doctors?