General anesthetics produce an unconscious state.  In this state a person is:

  • unaware of what is happening
  • pain-free
  • immobile
  • free from any memory of the period of time during which he or she is anesthetized

General anesthesia can be administered as an inhaled gas or an injected liquid.  There are several drugs and gases that can be combined or used alone to produce general anesthesia. 

When anesthetics reach the bloodstream, the drugs that affect the brain pass through other blood vessels and organs so they are often affected too.  Therefore, patients must be carefully monitored.  The anesthesiologist continuously monitors the patient’s heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation.  Some patients may have even more extensive monitoring depending on their health and which type of procedure or surgery they are having.