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General Anesthesia: Care Instructions


General anesthesia is medicine that causes you to become unconscious. The medicine can be inhaled or given through a needle in a vein. It affects the whole body.

It keeps you from feeling pain during a procedure. It's used for procedures such as open heart surgery and gallbladder removal. Sometimes it's used for caesarean sections.

It slows down many of your body's normal functions. For example, you may need help to breathe. An anesthesia professional will watch you very closely. They'll make sure you stay safe and comfortable.

General anesthesia is safe for most people. But some things can increase your risk of problems. These include smoking, obesity, and sleep apnea.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Don't do anything that requires attention to detail until you recover. This includes going to work or school, making important decisions, and signing any legal documents. It takes time for the medicine effects to completely wear off.
  • For at least 24 hours, do not drive or operate any machinery.
  • After the procedure, make sure to rest. Some people will feel drowsy or dizzy for up to a few hours after waking up.
  • Take your time, and move slowly. Sudden changes in position may cause nausea.
  • If you have sleep apnea and you have a CPAP machine, be sure to use it.


  • Don't drink alcohol for 24 hours.
  • You can eat your normal diet, unless your doctor gives you other instructions. If your stomach is upset, try clear liquids and bland, low-fat foods. For example, you can eat plain toast or rice.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have nausea or vomiting that gets worse or won't stop.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a new or worse headache.
  • The medicine is not wearing off.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.