Nap time!
October 6, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

What are your experiences being under general anesthesia?

I have to have a minor surgery later this month. It's my first time having surgery of any kind. I'm most nervous about the general anesthesia I'll be under.

What are/were your experiences being under general anesthesia? What kind of tips, if any would you offer?

Also, where can I find reputable information about it? Thanks.

And yes, I know you're not my doctor.
posted by elder18 to Health & Fitness (79 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My experience: They said "Count backwards from 100." Then I woke up in the recovery room wondering where I was.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I babbled like a good'un just as I went down. In the UK at least, the nice doctor counts you down from 10 and you're normally conked out by 6.

You'll wake up some time later, and have a totally normal conversation with someone, which you'll never remember.

You'll then wake up properly some time later and probably feel a bit crap from whatever operation you've had, and really want a drink of water.

No tips to offer. You're not really in control. Trust your anethetist. If for some reason you don't trust him/her, find one you do trust. Anethesia is a common and safe procedure, but physiologically is no walk in the park.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2009

I was given some drugs for wisdom tooth removal. They did general with some local. I was in and out of wakefulness, but I didn't feel much. I also don't remember anything.

Get a family member to drive you home afterward. Hopefully they don't YouTube the ride, hehehe :)
posted by Khazk at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2009

Know what clothes you can keep on, and dress extra-warmly for those parts. Multiple pairs of socks, long underwear, etc. - especially if you're prone to being cold. I'm told I was shivering a lot as I woke up.

Of course, this was supposed to be "light" anesthesia, but I fell asleep anyway. Others may corroborate or not.
posted by amtho at 8:45 AM on October 6, 2009

Oh yeah - the second time I did this, I asked to audio record the proceedings. Unfortunately, my request was denied.
posted by amtho at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2009

i would recommend careful adherence to the pre-op no liquid consumption guidelines. i didn't and wet the bed.
posted by anonymous78 at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had my gallbladder out in March. The process was this:

1. I walk into theatre. The staff are really friendly and try to keep my talking to get my mind off things.
2. I lie down on confortable-looking couch thing.
3. Tiny pinprick sensation as the anaesthetist popped in an IV thingummy into my hand.
4. He says "I'm just going to give you something to relax you. You might feel a little bit dizzy"
5. I start to say something about the room lights swimming about....

6. ...I wake up feeling completely normal in the recovery room. The nurse helps me up and we wander back to my little cubicle.
7. I get dressed and they make me sit and eat a sandwich and have a drink while they sort out some painkillers to take home.
8. My girlfriend arrives to drive me home.

Total duration: 3 hours.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2009

The being-under was no problem -- Obscure Reference's description mirrors mine.

Be aware, though, that some people (myself included) get horrendous nausea after anaesthesia. In my case, I got sick after I was sent home (where I lived alone), and was well on my way to dangerous dehydration before I finally got a friend to go back to the clinic and browbeat the doctor into giving me some anti-emetic medication.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been under general anasthsia three times. Each time, I went from "I'm sleepy" to "Is it over already?" in what felt like an instant. I didn't differentiate the sleepiness I felt going into it from how it felt coming out of it, so I'd thought I'd just slipped under for just a moment and they hadn't even started yet. In reality, I'd been out for one, four, or ten hours.

If you're going to be intubated, prepare to feel very, very, very thirsty for a long time afterwards. Have someone at the ready with Chapstick and ice chips (assuming the medical staff says they're OK).
posted by ferociouskitty at 8:48 AM on October 6, 2009

I counted backwards from 10. Then I woke up, unable to move or speak in recovery. After about 10 minutes, I could croak. Another ten and I could sorta talk. It took me probably 2 hours or so to regain 100% normal movement and speech. During that time I was really cold.

There is literally no gap between counting and waking up. I wish someone had told me before I went under that I wouldn't be able to move when I first woke up. That scared the s%$t outta me.
posted by caveat at 8:48 AM on October 6, 2009

I was nervous too. I had laproscopic day surgery. They gave me something to "relax" me beforehand in pre-surgery in my IV. Operating room was freezing cold, I remember asking for blankets and asking why it was cold. Then they strapped my arms out on these little table thingies. I saw the mask coming and I was out. Cheap date I guess. I woke up rolling on the gurney down to recovery with someone calling my name. The sensation of rolling was very weird and trippy to me.

I knew I had to demonstrate that I could use the bathroom on my own and had a desire to eat and drink before they'd let me go home, so when I was ready, I did those things. And then when we got home, I promptly and magnificently puked my ginger ale and saltines up... repeatedly. I was told that was normal. I slept the rest of the afternoon away in bed with the aid of percocets.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2009

I was knocked out for my wisdom teeth, and my anesthetist was INCREDIBLE. They walked me through every step of what was going on, and even had a sense of humor about the procedure (in a good way). As said above, I was told to count back from ten, and my memory today of the surgery is me saying "10 ... 9 ... " and then someone saying "Ok, he's back." We were done,
posted by frwagon at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2009

Tips (these were from the patient guides they gave me):

Don't drive for 48 hours.
Don't sign anything or make any financial or legal decisions for 48 hours.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2009

Oh the intubation... sore throat for a couple days after!
posted by jerseygirl at 8:50 AM on October 6, 2009


the five seconds that I was conscious anyway...
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've had general anaesthesia twice. The worst part of it for me was waking up with a sense of lost time. I guess this doesn't bother some people, but it really, really upset me.

Other than that, there was nothing significant about the experience. I don't even remember being asked to count as I was given Versed before the surgery as an anti-anxiety.

The tube can make your throat dry, but I don't remember being bothered by this. I do remember that the pain-killing effects of the anaesthesia wore off WAY before the sleepiness. I woke up immediately begging for pain-killers, and then promptly nodded off again.

Also, you may become nauseous/vomity afterwards, though this has never happened to me, I hear it's fairly common. You may want to discuss this with your anaesthesiologist and see about having a dose of an anti-emetic or a prescription ready to fill if you need it. This is why you have to have a totally empty stomach for anaesthesia - nothing would suck more than to vomit as they're taking the tube out and then aspirate it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:54 AM on October 6, 2009

I was put under when I was 15. It was completely easy and simple.

First I had some numbing cream put on the backs of my hands. About 10 minutes later, this had taken effect. I was wheeled down to theatre, and the last thing I remember is the surgeon saying "he's got good veins, hasn't he?". A while later I came round in the room I was wheeled from. Coming round was a bit like waking from a deep sleep. I was slightly aware of the bed, but not able to to communicate. About 5 minutes later, I was completely awake and with it and able to function. There were no dreams, no pain, nothing like that at all. It was literally like waking up. The fear of it was way worse than the actual procedure.

I had to pee afterwards, before they would let me go. This was to ensure that all of my internal organs had woken up. However, because I'd been fasting since the night before, I didn't need to go. It might be worth asking the doctor if you can have a drink before you go in or after you come out, if they make you do this. If they're keeping you in, obviously this isn't an issue.

You'll be fine.
posted by Solomon at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Three operations under GA. Every time they gave me an IV before the operating room. Right before I was wheeled from my room to the OR, they gave me a mild sedative in the IV. (Valium?). Then they wheel you into the OR and place your stretcher/trolly next to the operating table. Then they move you (you help if you are able) to the table. It is cold on the table and in the room. A nurse will prep the area. Usually that involves wiping the area with a very cold antiseptic liquid. Maybe have to shave you there too. This all happens quickly and efficiently. Then the Anesthetist says something along the lines of did you have anything to eat in the last x hours. You say no. He says good, we will be starting in just a second. They put an air tube in you nose. Like other posters have said, they tell you they are about to begin and shoot something into your IV and tell you to count backwards from 100 (or 10). I was out by 96 every time. I woke up in the recovery room and was fuzzy, struggling to hold up a conversation with whomever was waiting form me. I knew what I wanted to say, but it came out like a 95 year old man in fits and starts. One time, my wife told me I had had a very funny conversation with the doctor and nurses while she was standing there that I have no recollection of. Something along the lines of when they asked me how I was doing I replied with, "I feel like shit and it is all your fault. My head, my back and everything else hurts. What are you going to do about it?" They turned to my wife and said, "He is ready to go to his own room. We get this all the time."

I have had very minor procedures where I was out for 15 minutes and it was similar but much less intense or long lasting. Depending on what the procedure is, you can request to be awake and they sedate you and give you a local. When I had my stents put in, I did that. Very cool to watch your arteries and heart from the inside on a monitor and not feel a thing. I know of friends who had arthroscopic knee surgery the same way.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like Obscure Reference, they had me count backwards from 100 and by, oh, 96? I really don't remember, because I was out. It's not really like anything -- it's like being asleep, or something. All I remember is waking up in the recovery room. They let me talk on the phone to my parents, which was weird, I remember just feeling out of it and like I wanted to know how the surgery went but that I also didn't really have the energy to care at that time. I have done this twice and both times the anesthesia wasn't really a big deal compared to the amount of worrying I had done leading up to the surgery -- the worrying was the hard part!

You probably can't keep on any clothes, since they'll probably have you in a gown and they won't want you wearing socks or anything because they need to see your fingernails and toenails to make sure that your circulation is good. They'll give you blankets in recovery; don't worry. Shivering is actually a common reaction to waking up from anesthesia because your body temperature has dropped during the procedure.

Recovering from general anesthesia takes a little while; you will feel groggy and slow and strange. They may give you morphine afterwards; do not be afraid to use pain medications. They actually help you heal faster.

I'd advise you to talk to your doctor and anesthesiologist before the procedure. Tell your doctor about your concerns and she should be able to give you good information. She may have pamphlets for you to read or other resources about the topic as well.
posted by k8lin at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2009

Had an operation on my jaw when I was 13. About 3 hours. Remember being very groggy, could barely open my eyes, and was really shivering. Half remember asking a nurse for a blanket.

Was really quite a nice groggy feeling though really, apart from being cold
posted by derbs at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2009

Like Inspector.Gadget, I also had about a five second window where I was still conscious as the fentanyl and sodium pentathol were coming on that felt like 100% sex.
posted by The Straightener at 8:58 AM on October 6, 2009

I've been under general three times.

1) 7 years old, tubes in my ears due to chronic ear infections. Don't remember going under; it was an evening surgery so it was close to bedtime anyway. Coming out, I vividly remember waking up very suddenly, telling the nurse I wanted my mother. She said she was, and I screamed `No! I want my real mummy!` and promptly passed out again.

Wasn`t until I was 17 that I found out it was my mother. Oops.

2) 16 years old, wisdom tooth. Inserted the IV in my arm, inserted a syringe the size of an ICBM into that and started injecting. Burned like a motherfucker, I said so, and the anesthetist said `Well, it should stop hurting about--`, followed by me suddenly waking up in my dad`s car, halfway through a McChicken sandwich.

3) Two years ago, appendectomy. I`ll spare the hell that was the hospital ordeal. Doctor puts the mask towards my face, I ask if I have to count. I wake up in the recovery room fearsomely thirsty.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

If they put you under properly, you won't remember the surgery at all. When you wake up, you'll probably be extremely cold. You might also be nauseated. I always have a bad reaction to the anesthetic - they can pre-treat you for that if they know it's coming, but since you haven't had an anesthetic before, be aware of that and don't hesitate to ask for something for nausea.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2009

I've had general anesthesia twice.
The first time was for impacted wisdom teeth, when I was 19. It was fun going under. But I threw up a *lot* when I woke up. I woke up when they were extubating me, and they were kind of rough with that. I had a sore throat for over a week.

The second time, when I was 31 (ovarian cyst) I made sure to tell everyone involved that I was super vomity the first time. They put some sort of anti-emetic in the mix and I was fine. I was very groggy for a number of hours though, and was the last person out of recovery even though I was one of the first ones in. No lingering anesthetic effects, just the pain of the surgical site.
posted by gaspode at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2009

they won't want you wearing socks or anything because they need to see your fingernails and toenails to make sure that your circulation is good.

I had socks. Wonderful cheap grey sweatsocks that I still wear around the house because they have little skid/slip soles on them and they are so warm. And even though the prep information they sent me in the mail ahead of time said absolutely not, when I went for my pre-surgery I asked about it and I was assured it was fine. They let me keep polish on both my nails and toenails. They had a little clippy thing that handled the circulation monitoring at my extremities.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2009

I've had several surgeries, some awake under locals and some under general. The general is great. As everyone has said, you count back from 100, get to 95 or so and are out. You wake up several hours later in recovery (hopefully with some nice warmed blankets on) and it's like nothing ever happened, except you have a big cyborg eye patch on. But maybe that was just me.

With the local, they keep talking to you, joking, and you can feel pressure that while not hurting you, does make you feel uncomfortable. They also play bad music. Go for the general, it's much better.
posted by genefinder at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2009

i have had general anesthesia once, because they couldn't get me numb enough on one side with a spinal to do a c-section. I woke up in recovery with a sore throat and trying to tell the 4 people staring at me that i thought my eyes were crossed. They weren't. I think the sore throat was because they weren't able to be as gentle as normal with the intubation. It is a strange feeling but not unlike being awakened from a deep sleep abruptly.
posted by domino at 9:10 AM on October 6, 2009

So awesome. The anesthesiologist told me I'd be asleep as soon as the IV went in. Immediately complaining about how I was still awake, although blissfully groggy… barely got the sentence out and I was gone.

Woke up hours later more rested than I'd ever felt in my life. Tried getting up right away and almost fell off the bed. A nurse came running in and told me to take it easy. I eased into walking in a few minutes, got on with my life.
posted by mhz at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2009

Yeah, getting general is pretty fucking sweet for those few seconds you can feel it settle in. Then you wake up like nothing happened.

The only real issue I ran into was that it's really, really hard to pee after you wake up.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:12 AM on October 6, 2009

One experience with GA. They started the IV and I was out like a light in about 10 seconds. About 2 seconds of "getting drowsy ... ", then I woke up just as abruptly in the recovery room. A nurse next to my bed was asking a question of somebody else, and in good AskMe fashion I popped awake in time to answer it. (Pedantic, me?)

My main problem post-op was not being able to pee despite really needing to. Those muscles just wouldn't relax for about 2 hours after I was awake. It was totally weird. On the whole, though, GA was no big deal, which is exactly what's supposed to happen.
posted by Quietgal at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2009

When I had my gall bladder out, I remember trying to take the mask off and seeing people standing over me. One said, "No, Myname!" The surgery was at about 10am.

I woke up at 6:20pm and heard a nurse exclaim, "she's been here for hours!"

The next day, during rounds, I asked them if I fought back. "Yes, a lot!" and "You were strong; we were afraid you'd fall off!"

(I was pleased to hear that; I'm pretty out of shape.)

About a month ago, I had a upper endoscopy-colonoscopy combo. (I'd had each done separately once before.)

I woke from that really tired and groggy, much more than with any procedure in the past. I mentioned it and the nurse told me, "he saw you were having problems, and he gave you more." She didn't elaborate.

I guess I'm resistant to authority even under sedation.
posted by jgirl at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2009

I'm not sure that this is going to be helpful for you, and I feel like perhaps I shouldn't share this with you if you are feeling nervous, but you did ask, and this is my honest experience.

I had my wisdom teeth out and was given general anesthesia, and I woke up during the surgery. However, it wasn't a big deal. From what I understand, what they give you has three functions:

1. It is supposed to knock you out.
2. It also removes pain.
3. It also gives you a sense of well-being.

So I remember waking up and not feeling any pain, and to be honest with you, I didn't care that I had woken up. I was watching things (briefly) with a very detached interest. I think they noticed I had woken up pretty quicky, and simply gave me some more to knock me out again. What is interesting is that "waking up during surgery" was always a huge fear for me, and I even talked to my doctor about it beforehand, but it ended up not being a big deal.

The part that was a bit troublesome though was that when I was in recovery, I felt horrible. I've had times when I wake up during the night and I'm really tired still, but I'm too restless to fall back asleep. I felt like this during recovery, but worse, and eventually just stumbled home, with the help of someone who came with me. I'm guessing that this may be in part to needing more of the stuff to knock me out. My brother had surgery recently and said that they are now able to give you a patch of sorts that you wear that is supposed to eliminate some of the sick feeling that some people get. If you have any concerns about this, perhaps you could ask for it up front.

I will concur that it went by in a flash. I was counting, then I was out, and then a brief waking up during the surgery, and then I was in recovery.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:18 AM on October 6, 2009

I've had general three times. All three times, I remember watching my vision close in on me. I usually have enough time to ask "Is it always like this?" and then I'm waking up in recovery. I definitely feel a disconnect on time and a WTF moment when I see or feel the surgical results. I remember looking at the bandaging from my bone marrow biopsy and kind of thinking "Huh, wonder what happened there..." I knew what happened. I had authorized it. However, I didn't remember it and was mildly stumped by it. Then I moved and I really remembered.

One thing I've not seen anyone mention here is that some people don't go down easy. A friend goes down swinging and comes back out of it swinging. He always has to warn the nurses and the doctors beforehand.
posted by onhazier at 9:26 AM on October 6, 2009

I've had two bad experiences going under. The first time I was 11 or 12 years, going in for oral surgery. Apparently (as I was informed later) I woke up in the middle before they were done, hallucinated and fought with the surgeon/nurses until they could sedate me again. I don't remember anything from that.

The second time was age 16 or 17, getting wisdom teeth extracted - again I woke up hallucinating before they were done but I didn't fight so much as I tried to get up and walk off. All I remember was the bright light over head, the feeling that I was laying down on a very narrow balance beam and I wanted to stand up so I wouldn't fall off. They had only extracted three of the four teeth at that point. Since I had reached an age where I was reluctant to be there in the first place, my dad told them to put me back under and get the fourth tooth out because he knew I wouldn't want to come back. So they put me back under with something else, which knocked me out for a long time until the office was closed. I woke up extremely groggy, tried to stand and almost fell over. My dad had to carry me to the car, and as soon as I got home I passed out for 12 hours after. I was so out of it that I didn't change the dressings on my mouth, which lead to dry socket. Dry socket is the most painful thing I have ever experienced.

It kind of scares me that my body reacts that way to anesthesia, and I worry about it if I ever had to get it in the future. However it has been so long since I've had those surgeries that I don't know the names of the doctors or what they gave me so I'm not sure what I could tell the doctors with in the future (other than what I have just written here) should I need surgery again :/
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2009

I went under for wisdom tooth removal (x4). First they administered laughing gas, then started an IV for the real anesthesia (liquid Demerol?), put the little cape over me, and began prepping the instruments. After they injected the drugs, they started asking me ever so often if I was awake, try counting, etc., and I kept still being awake. Finally someone pulled back the cape from my arm and noticed that the nurse had screwed up the IV insertion and, instead of flowing merrily through my veins, the anesthetic was hanging out in a big bubble beneath the skin. There was some irate discussion, they restarted the IV and shot me up again, and the next thing I remember is waking up on my grandparents' couch, listening to my R.N. mother yell about how liquid Demerol or whatever eats tissue and the dental surgeon's staff was incompetent and OH YOU'RE CONSCIOUS KEEP YOUR ARM ELEVATED.

I assume that I was out for such a long time thanks to the double dose of drugs. The arm is still attached and appears whole.
posted by vilthuril at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only time I've had general anesthetic was for an abdominal surgery at age 7, but I remember it fairly well. I was wheeled in to the OR, transfered to to operating table, IV went in, and they had me count backward just as others have described above.

100, 99, 98, (ears start to ring mildly, why do I feel so *fantastic* all of a sudden), 97, 96... and then I was awake in recovery, not the least bit startled or troubled by a sense of lost time.

The only real 'tip' I can offer is to take the recovery nurse's instructions seriously no matter how banal or inapposite they may seem, because s/he knows exactly what s/he's talking about. In my case, I was calmly and firmly instructed to shake my legs back and forth a little bit before trying to stand up to go use the bathroom, but I felt fine, so I hopped down and fell to the floor in a heap before the nurse could catch me. After being lifted back onto the bed and shaking my feet around for about 10 seconds I was fine.
posted by onshi at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2009

I went under for widsom tooth removal and minor surgery when I was a kid. Both times it was pretty much the standard "count backwards..." thing and i got a few numbers in. The two things that surprised me were the lost time feeling [disorienting but not really scary] and waking up feeling really nauseated and/or headachey. Sometimes I've heard that people wake up crying. Not really sad but just crying and this can be disorienting too. Generally speaking I found it to be a no big deal situation.
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2009

Oh, I should add that I'm fairly certain that the whole falling-in-a-heap incident was because I was a goofy kid, not because I was still groggy from the drugs.
posted by onshi at 9:37 AM on October 6, 2009

My experiences with general for both inpatient and outpatient surgery are pretty much what everyone else has described: start counting, wake up afterwards, let people take care of me.

The only thing I can add is that if you're scared or, worse, phobic of needles, talk to the doctor in advance. I get valium (or nitrous oxide for dental) first before they give me anesthetic now, and that makes it a lot easier for me in the leadup to the injection/IV.
posted by immlass at 9:47 AM on October 6, 2009

I've been under general anaesthetic twice this year. Once in January and once twelve days ago. The first was inpatient, the second was outpatient.

When they tell you not to eat or drink anything ___ hours beforehand, they mean it. Don't do it. They WILL cancel your surgery if they find out.

If you're really nervous, ask the doctor for a Valium or Ativan rx that you can take the night before. As long as you tell the anaesthesiologist what you've taken it won't be a problem.

My experience for both surgeries was that they take you back once you've been admitted, they have you take off all (or most) of your clothes and put on a gown. I had to be completely naked for the first (it was abdominal) and I got to keep my underpants on for the second. I had socks on for both of them.

Once I was changed and in the pre-op area the nurse came in, took my vitals, and then put in my IV. Then I sat there. My mom was allowed to hang out with me the first time, not the second. When it was time to go to the OR I was wheeled there on a gurney. The first time I was in a hospital and wheeled all the way through the damn place, which was sort of hilarious. The second was in a dedicated outpatient surgical center, so it was a short ride down a hallway.

From there both experiences were pretty much the same. Once in the OR they had me shift from the gurney to the operating table, which was pretty narrow. I had a chat with the anaesthesiologist, both of whom were pretty funny. I never did a countdown. It was just me making jokes and then waking up.

It's weird. Like, it's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you lose those hours when you're under. I was a lot calmer the second time around because I knew it was going to be out and then awake and those four hours of surgery weren't actually going to happen in my consciousness, if that makes sense.

I didn't get nauseated either time. The first time I was in a lot more pain because my surgery was laprascopic and the gas they use to inflate you takes a couple of days to go away. I also still had an IV and catheter in. Then they wheeled me from recovery to my room (through the hospital, again). The second time I woke up as they were putting my pants on. Then they wheeled me out to my car and my mom drove me home. It was sort of hilarious, really. Four hours of major surgery, a few minutes to wake up, and then kicked out the door.

It's normal to be scared. But you really shouldn't be if you can help it. Both surgeries were really good experiences for me.

Note: A lot of people experience hair loss a few months after GA. It's sort of annoying.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2009

I recommend having something or someone familiar in the recovery room with you if at all possible. I don't know if this is allowed for adults; all my surgeries were as a child. You will be disoriented when you wake up, and it was comforting to see my mother there.

nthing nausea and sore throat from intubation.
posted by desjardins at 9:56 AM on October 6, 2009

Once roundabouts 6, once at age 20. Both cases, I vaguely remember starting to count backwards, and that's it. When I had general as a kid, I got the nausea, and remember vomiting as just about the first thing coming back out of it; at 20 I lucked into no nausea at all. So that bit's pretty variable.
posted by Drastic at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: It is normal to be worried about the anesthetic; many patients are more concerned about anesthesia than the surgery (and in a few cases that is appropriate). The good news is that if you do not have any serious health problems anesthesia is extremely safe. I have seen statistics that show you are more likely to be injured in a car accident on the way to your surgery than to have a serious anesthetic complication.

You should get a chance to talk to someone from the anesthesia department prior to your surgery and get all your questions answered. Often a nurse does the initial preop interview but you can talk to an anesthesiologist if you want to in most cases. At that time they will go over your medical history (if you have any family history of problems with anesthesia let them know) and give you instruction on fasting before surgery and so on. The fasting guidelines are not there to keep you from peeing while asleep as one person stated above, but as someone else stated to minimize the risk of aspirating gastric contents. If you smoke try to stop for as long as possible before surgery; it takes 6-8 weeks to get the maximum benefit but even a shorter interval is good. The night before your surgery eat a light meal (unless instructed otherwise) and get a good night's sleep; no more than 1 or 2 drinks if you drink alcohol.

The events on the day of surgery vary somewhat according to the type of procedure you are having and what hospital you are in, but I can describe a typical course of an anesthetic. After signing in when it is close to time for your surgery they will take you to a holding room where you will get on a gown and they will often get a set of vital signs. At multiple points they will confirm your identity, what procedure you are having, any drug allergies you have, and a few other things. After you are settled in on a stretcher a nurse or anesthesiologist will start your IV and often give you a sedative so that you are relaxed going into the OR. Once in the OR you will be hooked up to the monitors (a list of typical monitors can be found here) and given some oxygen to breathe through a face mask. At that point you will be given an intravenous anesthetic (such as propofol, which you may have heard about recently) and drift off to sleep. This is when some anesthetists have you count, but I have never seen the point of that and instead quietly tell the patient that everything is going well, we're going to take good care of you, just take some slow, deep breaths, and so on until the patient is asleep. I won't go into detail about what happens while you are asleep other than to say that there will be a qualified anesthesia provider with you at all times; that is a basic tenet of our profession.

At the end of surgery the anesthetist will stop whatever drugs they are using to keep you asleep and allow you to wake up. If you have a breathing tube in (not all anesthetics require one) it will be removed as you wake up. You may or may not remember waking up in the OR. Once they are satisfied that everything is stable you will go to the recovery room where you will continue to be monitored until you are ready to go home or to your room, as appropriate. The recovery room nurses will be able to treat any pain, nausea, or other problems you might have. Although nausea can be a problem, its incidence and severity vary widely from patient to patient and with different types of surgery. Both pain meds and anti-nausea meds are often given in the OR, so even if you are at increased risk for these things they may still not happen.

Keep in mind that this is only a typical anesthetic; details can vary considerably. Certain types of surgery and the patient's medical condition can necessitate varying from the routine in a number of ways, so don't worry if things aren't exactly as I described for your procedure. Your hospital may have a website with information on what to expect during your stay, and a great deal of information can be found at the American Society of Anesthesiologists patient web site. Feel free to MeMail me if you want more info or have specific questions that I may be able to help you with. I hope everything goes well!
posted by TedW at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2009 [15 favorites]

seconding getting a sedative of some sort if you're nervous or scared. they're very helpful: not only do they alleviate your feelings of fear, they make you feel amazing. when i had my tonsils out (at 20, yeah...) i was beside myself with terror. although i was really trying to keep it together, they could tell i was freaking out and administered something into my IV line. i went from being panicked to feeling incredible, calm, and happy in seconds.

otherwise, what everyone else has said has sounded pretty right-on: lasting to about 98 or 97 when they tell you to count back from 100, the grogginess (which probably won't completely go away for a few hours), the shivering (i was told that's an effect of the anesthesia and not actually from being in a cold room), and the nonsense babbling have all happened to me (i've been under general three times).
posted by penchant at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2009

A friend, who is a nurse, reports that while some people do all kinds of goofy, inappropriate things while going under, they more or less ignore it and laugh it off. You don't have to worry about that.

I don't go under easy, at all. I had a procedure done and they were going to snake a catheter into my "leg." Well, that was a flat out lie. And I told them so when they began to work on me and I noticed that the area in question was near my leg. I had just been passively watching expecting that I'd transition from drowsy to asleep. I overheard "Oh, crap, he's awake, put another bag on!" (bag of what? I still don't know) from the left, behind me. I chattered a bit longer about my dissatisfaction with the deception and asked that the shaving be kept to a minimum, then went under — and woke up before they even moved me to recovery.

This last time there was a "well, since you're still up, would you mind moving over here?" discussion. The last bit I remembered was showing them that bit where I pop my jaw out slightly so they could open my mouth wider. Again, I woke up just before they moved me. No nausea, disorientation, or emotional distress. I just woke up.

On the other hand, I have a friend who goes out so easy they might as well wave a Vicodin on a stick over his head. He takes forever coming out of anything and has impaired memory of events even when he is moving and talking — he has no recollection of me driving him home after a procedure, despite a fairly coherent discussion.

I'm told that some more modern drugs, used in some situations, are pretty much like a light-switch. They do a push and *click*, you're out (for most folks). I gather anesthesia has come a long way since they took my grandfather's tonsils out on the kitchen table.
posted by adipocere at 10:09 AM on October 6, 2009

After looking through some of the other answers, some of the posters are describing sedation rather than an actual general anesthetic. The two are similar, especially at deeper levels of sedation, but there are a number of differences as well. In many cases a general anesthetic is actually safer; I thought I would mention that because you specifically said that you were having a general anesthetic.
posted by TedW at 10:11 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been under GA many times and my experiences are similar to those expressed above. Tip: If you have abdominal surgery, keep a pillow nearby as you recover. If you have to get out of the bed, cough, or sneeze, hold the pillow tight against your abdomen and it will be much less painful for you.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:12 AM on October 6, 2009

Are you having IV sedation or general anesthesia? I think people are talking about both here, and conflating them. Maybe you don't care and are interesting in hearing both, but I thought I would mention it.

Or what TedW just said.
posted by peep at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2009

Really not what you want to hear, I'll wager, but about 1 in 500 people administered general anesthesia wake up during surgery and have subsequent recall. Some hospitals/anesthesiologists now use a BIS monitor to actively watch for brain wave changes that indicate a patient under sedation may be aware. In my case, I woke up about 1 hour into having my first hip replacement surgery, but was still paralyzed and terrified, and being ventilated. I was lying on my side, and my arm under me, and the leg being operated on, which was on top, both hurt terribly, and I could hear my surgeon talking with his team, pretty unfavorably about my anatomy, as he was trying to initially dislocate the ball socket of my femur. It took him about 10 minutes to do that, but it seemed like days, and I was hoping to die through most of it. I finally felt and heard a big "Pop!" when the joint came apart.

Somewhere after that, I heard a surgical tech complain he was getting muscle tremors from me, and the anesthesiologist said "Well, his gases look good. But OK, let's try this, ..." and then, mercifully, a big gray fog descended, again. It took me several hours in recovery to come around after that, and my arm hurt much worse than the leg did, for several days after the surgery, to the point I had to ask for help from a physical therapist, to get some movement back.

A week later, they flopped me over on the other side, and did the other hip. Before I went back in for that, I had a long talk with the surgeon about the first operation, and I think, initially, he didn't believe I really remembered anything about it, but I told him some things he said, and he got pretty defensive about the whole thing. For a number of reasons, the second surgery wound up being a longer procedure by about 2 hours, and I didn't wake up during any of it, but did spend nearly 8 hours in the recovery room. And I had lasting effects of the anesthesia from that operation for a couple days afterward, to the point of the nursing staff refusing to give me some doses of pain medication, because my breathing reflexes and oxygen saturation remained poor. So, those first couple of days after the second surgery were particularly miserable, as I was hurting like hell in both legs, and one shoulder, and still had to stand and try to walk twice a day, and do breathing exercises, and other physical therapy, with little or no pain meds.

Better luck to you.
posted by paulsc at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2009

Not exactly your question, but you should also be aware that the PAYMENT for anesthesia is different from the payment for the hospital and the surgeon.

If you have the ability now to find out who it will be and whether he is a member of your insurance plan, you might save yourself some money/trouble for later.
posted by CathyG at 10:31 AM on October 6, 2009

Every time I have been under general anesthesia, I have woken up and started sobbing for no logical reason. I never felt sad or upset, or traumatized, I simply could not stop crying for about 30-45 minutes each time.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2009

Since paulsc brought up recall, I'll add my thoughts on that as well. Unfortunately he describes a fairly typical experience, even down to the inital doubts on the part of the people he described it to. Although a lot of people pushed the BIS monitor a few years ago as a way to prevent recall, the biggest study I have seen showed it made no difference (they also had a recall incidence af about 1/500). Now the BIS is being pushed as a way to wake the patient up faster rather than an awareness monitor. The good news is that recall can be almost entirely prevented by close attention to good anesthetic practice. If you are concerned about it, by all means talk about it with your anesthesiologist. There are a number of situations where recall is much more likely (for example, an unstable trauma patient whose blood pressure is too low to tolerate a full dose of anesthetic) and your anesthesiologist will be able to tell you if any of those risk factors apply to you. In my hospital there have been very few incidents of recall in the 20 years I have worked here.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2009

I don't remember a thing. This indicates to me that the anesthesiologist did his job perfectly.
posted by Citrus at 11:03 AM on October 6, 2009

I've been under general about a half dozen times in my life, and under "twilight" anaesthesia a couple of times. In my experience, general comes on very quickly -- like, LIGHTS OUT -- and I remember exactly zero when I wake up, at which point I was pretty groggy, but I understood what was going on.

Twilight, on the other hand, fades in and out a little more slowly and makdes me feel very giddy and a little stoned -- which is probably why, the last time I was coming out of it, I looked up at my anasthesiologist and promptly asked him out on a date.
posted by scody at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a great experience with general anesthesia for dental work. No nausea - I did try to be careful to not swallow blood in the following days, not sure if that had anything to do with it. But very sleepy for a couple of days afterward; definitely could not have gotten home under my own power.
posted by lakeroon at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2009

I was put under (with propofol I think) in May to have the tendons in my left wrist reattached after a mishap with a vase at a wedding; apparently I came to during the surgery and took a swing at the anesthesiologist and had to be held down.
posted by nicwolff at 11:30 AM on October 6, 2009

I was under once, about two years ago, for surgery on a broken leg. No counting down for me; in fact, I don't even have any memory of "drifting off." As far as my memory of the event is concerned, I went directly from "completely wide awake in the OR before surgery" to "waking up on my way to the recovery room."

I did get nauseous, not immediately after waking up, but about 12 hours afterwards, just for a few hours, even sticking to the prescribed Sprite-and-saltines diet.

But I did have one effect I haven't seen others mention here: for about three days afterwards, I would get terrible hiccoughs every time I would try to eat or drink something. That passed, but even after that, I couldn't eat any even moderately dry foods without having some liquid to wash it down, or I'd get hiccoughs (which I didn't prior to the surgery). To this day, if I'm at a restaurant and the waiter is inattentive in refilling my drink and I am left without a beverage, I have to stop eating until I get a refill.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:45 AM on October 6, 2009

I've been out under general twice. I've never had any problems with it that I know of. I also have no memory of the recovery time at all. I can second every description above of the pre-surgury process: Counting down from 100, etc . . .

But more interestingly, I've been the person hanging out in the recovery room with a friend or client too many times to count. The one piece of information I have to share is that everyone's recovery from GA appears totally different. Some people surface calmly, others fight thier way through to consciousness. I have one friend who cusses like a sailor at anyone in her line of sight, and another who sings Disney songs. Most people feel like throwing up and some wake up gagging already. My girlfriend (at the time) once flashed the nurses and attendents coming into the room. That was interesting.

I've learned from recovery nurses that opening up an alchohol pad and waving it under the nose of someone waking up with the gag reflex helps to allieviate the nausea.

I can't recommend enough, having someone familiar and soothing to hang out with you in the recovery room. In most of my experience, that person waits in the waiting room until someone comes to get them. Then they are led to a smallish recovery area right before the patient is brought into the room. The nurse then pops in and out frequently but the friend actually does most of the "hey-you awake yet?" work.

Personal exprience: Don't be surprised if you have a bit of amnesia throughout the next 48 hours. I have never remembered anything of the recovery time or the following day.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:49 AM on October 6, 2009

I didn't have all that much time to be worried about it because it was emergency surgery and I was pretty high on morphine by the time they said, "yep, surgery" BUT here are my recollections:

Wheeled into operating room, guy hooks something up to my IV and tells me to count back from 10. I remember feeling a warm sensation moving up my arm from the IV and I was asleep by the time it hit my shoulder. I think I had gotten to like 7 in my counting.

Waking up there was a clock directly in front of my bed and I opened my eyes looked at the clock, then blinked and looked at the clock again and it was an hour later. For about the next hour it was like waking up from the DEEPEST sleep EVER, the O2 thing kept falling out of my nose so this thing next to my bed would beep and the nurse would come over and put it back but I couldn't have cared less, I just wanted to go back to sleep. My surgery did finish around 2am so that might have also had something to do with it.

I was eventually wheeled to my actual hospital room and I woke up the next morning feeling fine (stomach wise - my incision hurt and I had to pee though).
posted by magnetsphere at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2009

I didn't have the inhaled anesthesia, just injected, at least while I was awake. So before I went into surgery (a good bit before), they put an IV into the back of my hand. Then while they were wheeling my bed somewhere, the anesthesiologist pumped something into the IV. He said, "You should feel like you've had a couple of cocktails," and I did.

Then he had another thing to put into the IV, and he said, "Think of something nice to dream about." I thought about a blue sky and that's the last thing I remember.

Well before this, the anesthesiologist and his intern assistant came to talk to me about how they would do the anesthesia, and to answer any questions I might have had.

When I woke up, at first I felt really good - people were talking around my bed and it seemed like everything was OK. Then I got really, really anxious. I was nauseated and I thought I was going to throw up, and because of the surgery I had had (on my neck) I had no way of rolling over and I thought I would choke to death. (Of course my stomach was actually empty, but I didn't think of that.) I panicked and someone came to help me and they gave me some anti-nausea meds and put something like smelling salts near my nose for me to smell. I didn't throw up.

In the general aftermath of the surgery I had a ton of anxiety over a lot of stupid things. I think it was the anesthesia, but also I'm kind of a wimp about medical stuff. I wish I had asked for anti-anxiety meds, but instead I kept getting them to give me more pain medication, which also worked for the anxiety. (I didn't have a lot of pain, but they would give me the stuff anyway.)
posted by tamaraster at 11:52 AM on October 6, 2009

1) Put on gurney.
2) Wheeled into operating room, which looked nothing like any operating room I've ever seen on TV.
3) Anesthesiologist made a couple of dumb jokes, put a mask over my face, and said, "Take a deep breath and I'll see you in 3 hours."
4) Woke up 3 hours later still on the gurney, but now in the hospital hallway.
5) After a while of waiting, had to yell for a nurse to help me get into a wheelchair so I could leave.

Still got charged $300 for 'post-op recovery care'.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2009

I've been put under twice. Both times I was told to count back from 10 and before I could even think "10" I was out.
Both times after the procedure I woke up a bit on the groggy side and was fine. They insisted I rest in a bed for half an hour but in maybe 3 minutes I was completely alert.
The most recent one, however, I began waking up in the middle of the surgery (getting my wisdom teeth out). I wasn't panicky at all, I figured I should just get their attention. So I tried to speak (they strapped me down and taped my eye lids shut) and heard an "Oh..." and within 5 seconds I was out again.

My brother had a similar experience at the same doctor... the waking up in the middle deal. Hmm.
On an odd note I drove him home and he would knock out, mid-conversation, for maybe 10 seconds complete with snoring and he would wake up without realizing he had fallen asleep. It happened maybe 4 times. Kinda funny, but also weird.
posted by simplethings at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2009

Have some peppermint hard candy available when you come out. Divine.
posted by charlesminus at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2009

Probably not what you want to hear but my heart stopped and had to be restarted when I was under general anesthesia for tonsil removal. After the surgery I guess my heart was still freaking out and they actually called in a priest to give me last rites because they weren't sure if I would make it. This was 30 years ago. And no I will not tell you what is on the other side....
posted by Justin Case at 12:09 PM on October 6, 2009

I was knocked out for my wisdom tooth extraction. I remember them putting in the IV, and telling me that they were giving me medication to relax me, and then I blinked and was being moved to a tiny little recovery room. I had no idea where I was, or if they'd done the surgery, and people's voices sounded all distorted -- it was like the teacher in the Charlie Brown specials. I was also apparently putting my hands in my mouth, although I don't remember that. Got blood all over the place. When they finally brought my mom in to take me home, she said I was shivery and really out of it. Slept the rest of the day away, felt fine when I woke up.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:16 PM on October 6, 2009

Had General as a teenager, and most of my anesthesias I remember a metallic taste as they give the drug via IV, like tinfoil and garlic. I remember commenting about it and then I was out. Waking up I remember hearing the nurse taking me back to my room through a hall and elevator but not having my eyes open - think suuuper sleepy cant open your eyes - and she kept saying to wake up, and that if I didnt they would have to put in a catheter. I thrashed around a bit then - they said that is common with juveniles - while adults simply wake up like from a deep sleep. You will have some amnesia due to the drugs, like conversations immediately after surgery you probably wont recall much of them later. I had nausea and threw up only as they were wheeling me out to be discharged, have a bowl handy whether you think you need it or not - if it happens, it usually happens pretty quick for that. Mostly you will just want to sleep afterward.

When I had wisdom teeth out in college, I had nitrous and then an injection in my arm for general. I woke up partway through - the dentist had his knee on my chest and was pulling a tooth - I felt nothing but barely felt my head moving was all - he noticed me looking at him and gave me another shot and I was out again.

Endoscopy as an adult was easier, just go to sleep and wake up and sleep it off that day.

Major surgery later as an adult, I had laparoscopy, no taste of metal and woke up later normally.

Major abdominal surgery around same time - they put in a lot of venous IVs and also an arterial in my arm - with numbing shot first since the artery is deep and they use a bigger needle and go in at a steep angle. No problems there either, that was an 8.5 hour surgery and I remember only being in the OR and talking with the doctor and surgical team before anesthesia. Waking up then was different as I was on morphine for a long time after and I was intubated for about a day or so - most of that I slept. The morphine can make you hallucinate - weird things with vision - and time - I recall asking my parents a question and then wondering why they werent answering only to realize I'd gone back to sleep and it was 3 hours later and no one was even in the room.

Best to have someone that knows you and find out if you can have water, ice etc - you'll be dry and thirsty after. I had no nausea except for the first surgery above.
It's really routine but ask all the questions you want of your anesthesiologist - they know their stuff and are happy to explain everything. If you are apprehensive, tell them so - they can give you valium via IV before the OR to help calm you and make you sleepy before the good stuff. Good Luck!
posted by clanger at 12:39 PM on October 6, 2009

My last time (five months ago)... the anaesthetist met with me a few hours beforehand to ask what my experiences of general anaesthesia had been and if I'd ever had any negative reactions. Then, when it was time, I was wheeled down into the theatre and a nurse put the oxygen mask on, then I was told "this will only hurt for a second" when the IV was put into my hand. Then the anaesthetist asked if I felt anything and I said "I feel a bit woooooozzzzyyyyy" and then I woke up five hours later, shivering with cold and really goddamn thirsty. The nurse put a space blanket on me and about a minute after I awoke I felt the pain and it felt like my insides were being ripped out with a coathanger, so I asked for a painkiller and they would only give me a suppository because apparently it's normal to puke after waking from a general.

Then I was wheeled back to my room and I was starving after the 'nil by mouth' order from midnight the night before (it was now around 7pm), so ordered a bowl of soup and then fell asleep halfway through eating it.

My only advice is to follow the doctor's orders re: food and drink beforehand, let the theatre staff know if you need anything (like a painkiller or if you're cold) and relax. The more anxious you are about it the worse it'll be, and be honest with your anaesthetist about how you're feeling and any previous experiences you've had. Good luck!
posted by goo at 12:47 PM on October 6, 2009

charlesminus: "Have some peppermint hard candy available when you come out. Divine."

After one of my surgeries, I could not urinate which apparently was a prerequisite for me leaving the hospital. THe only thing that enticed me to go was a smell from a bottle of essence of peppermint. I have no idea why. Nurse said it was an old trick they used. Considering the catheter alternative, I was very happy.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2009

I have general a few times. It's always counting backwards from 100 to 99 and then gone. It's not really like falling asleep, more like being turned off.

Waking up I'm usually thirsty, incredibly angry and far too confused to figure out at what or who.
posted by timeistight at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2009

I'm a little suprised (and now embarrassed about previous behaviors) that I am the only person to remark that they got crazy mean after GA. Both times I've been under I've woken up to terrible stories of me screaming and yelling and just generally being a pain in the ass. My dental surgeon actually said to me as I was leaving, "Girl, you are mean as a
snake when you're under. Never do drugs!"
posted by banannafish at 2:21 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been under twice. First time I barely remember - I remember getting an IV and it felt cold, and I dimly recall wheeling into the operating room. Don't remember what it looked like, don't remember any doctors talking to me - total blank. I don't even remember waking up after that one, my memory doesn't come back until I was being wheeled out of the hospital feeling distinctly embarrassed because I didn't think I needed the chair but it was hospital policy.

I was also under for my wisdom teeth. They had some trouble finding a good vein because my veins suck, but then I was out like a light. I think I may have woken up a little at some point, I have an extremely vague recollection of feeling weird (not uncomfortable, just weird) pressure in my mouth and hearing voices but not really understanding them. It was very brief, and then next thing I remember I was awake in the recovery room.

I woke up really fast that time and felt ready to go before they were sure I was ready to go. They let me sit up but wouldn't let me stand up for a while, so I just sat there and felt spacey for a while, and they brought my partner in from the waiting room to keep me entertained and keep an eye on me.

Both times I had no coldness, post-anthesia depression, or any bad anesthesia side effects. I threw up once a few hours after the operation the second time - but I think I tripped my gag reflex changing the gauze on my teeth, I don't think it had anything to do with the drugs.

The worst part of the whole thing was a really annoying fight with the nurse over how much I weighed so she could get the dose right. I don't own a scale and hadn't weighed myself in several years, so the best I could do was tell her the last weight I knew, and approximately how much I thought I'd changed since then. She was convinced I was lying, and I told her to take her best guess and whatever she guessed was probably as good as my guess, and we went round and around for ages. Next time I will find a scale and weigh myself first.
posted by Stacey at 2:44 PM on October 6, 2009

I was under general when I got my wisdom teeth out. It was only for about an hour, I think, and was no big deal. They gave me some laughing gas first, and the next thing I remember, I woke up.

After I woke up, I felt totally normal and thought that I could walk perfectly fine. Luckily, my dad (who drove me to/from) didn't believe me & walked behind me, and caught me when I almost fell down - I was very shaky, and it took several hours before I could walk normally again
posted by insectosaurus at 3:08 PM on October 6, 2009

Here's something a lot of people don't realize: Being under general isn't really like sleeping, it's like being dead. Or at least what I imagine being dead will be like. When you sleep and wake up you might not know exactly how long has passed but there is a definite sense of time having passed (usually). But most of the times I've been completely under during surgery it's a complete discontinuity. One second I'm breathing in the nasty treacle crap and the next I'm waking up in recovery and trying not to puke.

The two exceptions were once when I was like 12 and I was apparently right on the edge of being big enough for a different kind of anaesthetic or something and I had a bad experience. It's incredibly hard to describe but I thought maybe I was dead and in hell. It was like I was rushing down a strobing black and white tunnel while an incredibly loud sound like the worst alarm bell you've ever heard was blaring over and over. I was afraid that I would be there for eternity. But then I woke up.

The other exception was when I was under some sort of local/general combo where they didn't put me completely out under the general, just kind of kept me in a haze. In that case I believe I spent the entire time hitting on the anaesthesiologist. In my defense her eyes were cute.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on October 6, 2009

I have had GA four or five times and was most recently under general for an emergency appendectomy. (Yay emergency medicine!) My experiences have all been in line with the majority of what people here are saying, and the typical procedure TedW describes. Two deviations from the above in my forays into the Twilight Zone:

1) I woke up hostile and combative in recovery. I do actually recall swearing at the recovery nurse and demanding more post-op pain relief. What I do not recall, but what my chart makes clear, is that this was the eighth time I'd woken up, been horrendous, and promptly fallen back asleep.

2) For a planned, non-emergency surgery, I brought and handed in a DNR. In Justin Case's position, this would have meant that I would now be dead. Your feelings about DNRs may vary. It is an atypical demand for low-risk surgery but always an option.

I would recommend Under the Mask as a good patient guide to anaesthesia. Disclaimer: the author is my uncle, but he is also a former president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Chief of Anesthesiology at his hospital and knows what he's talking about.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had IV sedation when I had my wisdom teeth removed. I was out pretty quick after they got the IV in. I woke up during the procedure at one point, and could hear the sound of a drill and people talking. It didn't bother me at all though. I remember someone telling me to go back to sleep, so I did. Next thing I remember, I am in another room, crying. I don't know why I was crying. I felt fine, no pain or nausea or anything. I just couldn't stop. I continued to cry the whole way home where I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next morning feeling fine. The worst part of the whole experience was feeling embarrassed because many people saw me sobbing uncontrollably and were asking me what was wrong.
posted by missanissa at 4:54 PM on October 6, 2009

I had general anesthesia when I got my wisdom teeth out last year. I am a total needlephobe and the orthodontist told me during the initial consultation that he had this spray he would use on my arm and I wouldn't feel anything when I got the IV. On the day of the appointment, he sprayed my arm and I squeezed my eyes shut so I wouldn't see the needle of the IV go in. The spray was cold and I still felt his fingers where he was holding my arm. I opened my eyes to tell him the spray wasn't numbing anything, looked over - needle was in my arm already! I closed my eyes again, and the next thing I remember was opening my eyes, feeling very well-rested. Food and drinks did taste weird for the rest of the day and it was a few hours before I was able to speak understandably, but that was all the oddness I had as a result.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2009

I just had surgery last week, and the stories about dosages being lower in Japan (for smaller bodies, or whatever)? True in my case. I woke up as they were removing the tube from my throat and nose. Absolute nightmare.

I have had GA in the States before, and it was fine, though I swear either I hallucinated a bit before dropping off, or that Weiss Memorial in Chicago has cast members from Jacob's Ladder on staff.

When you wake, you'll want to pee. You won't be able to. They'll keep nagging you until you pee.

Don't do too much (like walking, pushing to pee, etc) or you might get pukey. Very unpleasant, when your stomach is empty.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:38 PM on October 6, 2009

Following GA during her hysterectomy, my mother felt extremely constipated. She remarked that she had suffered similarly after other surgeries. Since no one else has mentioned constipation as a side effect, her experience may be unusual. Perhaps it is the intestinal equivalent of the inability to pee situation.
posted by carmicha at 6:24 PM on October 6, 2009

I was put under for tonsil removal and tubes in my ears when I was eight or so; don't remember a thing except a shot in my ass. Ow.

I'm having a procedure *cough* colonoscopy *cough* done in a few weeks and will be put out for that. This thread has been quite helpful in quieting my fears about the anaesthesia. Thanks to all who answered.
posted by deborah at 3:28 PM on November 10, 2009

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