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General anesthesia is safe and common. Anesthesiologists are specialist doctors who have undergone many years of training. Your treating anesthesiologist will discuss what they believe is the best way to care for you during your procedure. 


In the preoperative area you’ll meet the anesthesiologist who will be responsible for your care. They may have a resident anesthesiologist or medical student working with them. They’ll discuss with you what their plan for the anesthetic involves and answer any questions you have. After you’ve changed into a patient gown, you’ll have an intravenous line placed by one of the nurses in the preoperative areas, and monitoring put on. 


When you arrive in the operating room this is what will happen:

  • You’ll be attached to monitoring

  • A team briefing with all of the people involved in your operation will occur

  • You’ll be asked to breathe on an oxygen mask

  • Your anesthesiologist will then give you medication through your intravenous line that makes you unconscious for your procedure. After you are asleep, they will place a breathing tube

  • Depending on the procedure you are having, they will place extra intravenous and monitoring lines. These can be placed before or after starting the general anesthetic depending on your health


Your anesthesiologist will stay with you the whole time during surgery to make sure you are safe and comfortable. They may give a blood transfusion during the procedure if you need it. 


When the operation is finished your anesthesiologist will take you to the intensive care unit so you can recover from your operation. Depending on how the operation progresses you may be woken up in the operating theatre or in the intensive care unit.

You will have an opportunity to ask questions if you have any prior to the procedure. While we have asked you to review this information, your anesthesiologist will review their personalized plan for your care with you on the day of surgery and discuss any risks that are relevant to you.  

Side Effects of General Anesthesia

Very Common


These side effects happen to more than 1 in 10 people. This is equivalent to one person in a family. 

Sickness (Nausea and Vomiting)



Sore Throat


Temporary memory loss (mainly in those over 60 years of age)


These side effects happen to between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people. 

This is equivalent to one person in a street

Pain at site of injection

Minor lip or tongue injury


Between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000

This is equivalent to one person in a small village

Minor nerve injury



Between 1 in 1000 and 1 In 10 000

This is equivalent to one person in a small town

1 in 10 000 people

Severe allergic reaction to a drug (Anaphylaxis)

1 in 4500 people

Damage to teeth requiring treatment

1 in 2800 people

Scratch on eye (Corneal abrasion)

1 in 1000 people

Peripheral nerve damage that is permanent

Very Rare

1 in 10 000 to 1 in 100 000 people.

This is equivalent to one person in a large town or city

1:100 000 people

Death as a direct result of anesthesia

1 in 20 000 people

Awareness during an anesthetic

1 in 100 000 people

Loss of vision

This publication includes text taken from the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) leaflet ‘Common events and risks in anaesthesia 2019’ but the RCoA has not reviewed this as a whole" 

Planned Intensive care stay after general anesthesia


Induction of anesthesia

Image credit: The American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons

intensive care.jpg

A patient in intensive care 

Image credit: Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRES

Possible extra monitoring lines that maybe placed by your anesthesiologist

central line .jpg

A central line is a special IV that is placed in a large vein, often in the neck to deliver strong medications. 

Image credit: 3M™ Tegaderm™ I.V. Advanced Securement Dressings Product Information

arterial line.jpg

An arterial line is a monitoring device that allows your anesthesiologist to see your blood pressure from beat to beat of your heart and take blood samples easily

Image credit: 3M™ Tegaderm™ I.V. Advanced Securement Dressings Product Information

This is a pilot project that aims to offer patients useful and accessible information about their upcoming anesthetic. We value your feedback and anticipate the website will expand over time! Please fill out the survey after reviewing the material. Your response is completely confidential and in no way will change the care you receive in hospital. 

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