What is general anesthesia?

General anesthesia makes you unconscious and unaware of the operation, and is usually accomplished by medication injected into an intravenous (a small plastic tube inserted into a vein of the hand or arm). A tube is inserted into the throat while the patient is asleep to help him breathe. All important body functions are closely monitored, and the anesthetist remains with the patient for the entire operation.

What is the role of the anesthetist?

Your anesthetist is a fully trained doctor (MD) who has spent additional years receiving specialized training in anesthesia, and is responsible for the overall medical care of the patient during the time of their dental treatment. The anesthetist will make the patient unconscious and will carefully observe the vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, and breathing throughout the procedure. A variety of sophisticated electronic monitoring devices may also be used. Under normal conditions your body has a mechanism that automatically prevents you from vomiting anything in your lungs. However, when you are unconscious during general anesthesia this mechanism might not function properly. Therefore, the patient must have an empty stomach before receiving any anesthetic in order to reduce the possibility of this happening. The patient cannot eat ANYTHING after midnight (the night before his appointment). When the procedure is completed, your anesthetist will reverse the anesthetic effect and take the patient to the recovery room. The recovery room nurse, under the supervision of the anesthetist, is trained to care for the patient while they return to consciousness. Their breathing, pulse, blood pressure and temperature will be checked. They will receive oxygen to breathe, and will be asked to cough and take deep breaths to help keep their lungs clear. Medication for pain will be given as necessary. Once your child is fully awake, you will be brought back to the recovery room.

How will the patient feel after their anesthetic?

The patient might have a dry throat and some stiff muscles. They might have some short term memory loss and drowsiness. Some patients will experience nausea. Their mouth might feel sensitive depending on the type of dental procedures the patient received.

What are the risks of anesthesia?

Adverse effects and serious complications are very rare. However, any operation or anesthetic carries some risks, which depend on the overall health of the patient. Since the specific risks vary with each patient, you should ask your anesthetist what risks your family member may face. The whole team will take every precaution to ensure that the patient’s surgery proceeds smoothly.

What is being done to ensure safety in anesthesia?

The Canadian Anesthetist’s Society and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada work with hospitals and university departments of anesthesia, professional organizations, government agencies, and industry to develop standards of training, equipment, drugs, and procedures to ensure that Canadians receive the highest quality anesthesia care. The primary goal is always patient safety and, thanks to the efforts of all in the field, modern anesthesia has become very safe.

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