Plastic Surgery: What is General Anesthesia Like?

What to Expect with General Anesthesia During Plastic Surgery

Thanks to advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures, many times plastic surgery can be performed with only “local” anesthetic (numbing). But more extensive plastic surgery procedures, such as tummy tucks or full facelifts typically require generally anesthesia – the kind that “knocks you out” or “puts you under”.

If you have booked your plastic surgery – or are considering cosmetic surgery – you are probably quite excited about your results! But if you still have some questions or reservations about the general anesthesia you will be undergoing, you’re not alone. In fact, data recently compiled in a study performed by psychiatrists revealed that roughly 30% of plastic surgery patients were more afraid of the anesthesia than of the surgery itself.

It’s human nature to worry about something as new, different, and important as surgery. If you are feeling anxious about general anesthesia, knowing what to expect can help you feel more relaxed and comfortable. In this article the plastic surgery experts at AMAE Plastic Surgery in Birmingham, MI explain how general anesthesia works, what being “put under” feels like, and what to expect on the day of your procedure.

Is General Anesthesia Safe during Plastic Surgery?

Modern methods of general anesthesia are extremely safe when administered by a skilled, board-certified anesthesiologist. Studies have shown that there is only a 0.01% to 0.016% (one-tenth of one percent) chance of a fatal complication caused by anesthesia.

Certain known risk factors are usually to blame for these very rare anesthesia-related complications. Obesity, smoking, underlying illness, advanced age, poor overall health, and medication interactions are most often behind anesthesia complications. So, it is critical that patients are honest with their plastic surgeon about smoking, any medications they are taking, and/or any preexisting health issues.

What to Expect from General Anesthesia during Plastic Surgery

On your day of surgery, a caring nurse will assist you with any pre-op preparations before you are taken to the operating room. Next, both the anesthesiologist and the plastic surgeon will discuss the general anesthesia process with you before giving you the anesthesia injection, IV drip or gas.

Once the anesthesia hits your bloodstream, the effects kick in very quickly. The anesthesiologist may ask you to count backward from 100 to monitor how you are responding to the medication. Most people don’t even make it to 90!

Typically, patients do not remember anything (or feel anything) after that – from the time the general anesthetic is administered to waking up in the recovery room.

How General Anesthesia Works During Plastic Surgery

General anesthesia works on four different levels to affect the entire body and ensure that the patient does not feel a thing:

  1. Unconsciousness: The patient is completely sedated, simulating a very deep sleep or coma.
  2. Immobility: The patient’s body is completely unable to move, keeping them completely still during surgery.
  3. Analgesia: This prevents the patient from feeling pain during the surgery at all.
  4. Amnesia: This ensures that the patient does not remember anything that happened during the procedure.

What Happens During General Anesthesia for Plastic Surgery

The anesthesiologist remains present for the entire time the patient is “asleep.” He or she will be constantly monitoring oxygen intake, vital signs, circulation, fluid loss, and degree of unconsciousness. This ensures that bodily function remains at stable, normal levels – and that the patient stays completely “under.” Knowing that a board certified anesthesiologist is by their side, monitoring their condition the entire time, often takes the worry away for many patients.

When the patient “wakes up” the period of time they were under general anesthesia is a ‘blank’. The last thing they usually remember is receiving the medication, and they don’t remember anything in between until they wake up in the recovery room.

Everyone reacts a bit differently to general anesthesia, upon waking up. Some patients simply feel “out of it” until they wake up completely. Others may feel emotional, loopy, or have slurred speech.

In fewer cases some people may have their inhibitions lowered and/or behave in an exaggerated manner that is normally uncharacteristic for them. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. A quick YouTube or TikTok search returns many of videos patients exhibiting silly, out-of-character behavior as they recover from general anesthetic.

Recovery After General Anesthesia

Some patients may feel nauseous and/or dizzy for a little while, while others may shiver or feel cold for a few minutes or a couple hours.

For the first 24 hours after general anesthesia patients may continue to be sleepy, and their judgment, concentration and reflexes may still be affected. So, always have a responsible caregiver stay with you for at least a day after receiving general anesthesia.

Plastic Surgery | Birmingham, MI

While modern general anesthesia technology is extremely safe, you should always work with a board-certified plastic surgeon and a board certified anesthesiologist. Do not be shy or embarrassed to ask your plastic surgeon about the credentials of the anesthesiologist who will be administering your general anesthesia during your plastic surgery.

Dr. Ali is a skilled and experienced Birmingham, MI board certified plastic surgeon. He will answer all of your questions about general anesthesia if it is required for your plastic surgery procedure – and ensure you are paired with a fully qualified anesthesiologist or anesthetist.

Plastic Surgery | Birmingham, MI: 248-335-7200