How Anesthesia Really Affects Your Body

The magic of anesthesia has enabled many of us to undergo countless medical procedures with as little pain as possible. According to MedlinePlus, anesthesia is the use of anesthetics to prevent pain during surgery and other procedures. They may be administered by injection, inhalation, topical lotion, spray, eye drops, or skin patch. Being given anesthetics is often referred to as "going under." And while many of us have experienced going under, a lot of us are unaware of how anesthesia really affects the different parts of the body.

Jennifer Kollman, M.D., director of anesthesia at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, Colorado tells The Healthy what happens to your brain when you start counting backwards from 100. "A hypnotic agent is given to quiet the thinking part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, and areas of the brain stem associated with awareness," she says. "When you awaken, it's almost like you've time-traveled, feeling like you only fell asleep moments ago." Adding that, "Some people even report dreams afterward."

You also lose your ability to cough and protect your airways while under the influence of anesthetics. There is also the possibility of your stomach contents being emptied into your lungs, which is why patients are asked to not eat for a given period of time before surgeries, notes The Healthy.

Have an empty stomach and give your actual weight to avoid complications

Nitin Sekhri, M.D., medical director of pain management at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, tells The Healthy why an empty stomach is necessary. "While often a nuisance, not eating before a general anesthetic is crucial. If your stomach has contents inside of it at the start of the procedure, stomach contents can enter into the lungs causing severe, possibly life-threatening pneumonia."

In addition to not being able to protect your airways and lungs, and subduing the thinking part of your brain, anesthesia can also have an affect on your blood pressure. As stated by Healthline, body temperature and intravenous (IV) fluids needed during anesthesia and surgery can elevate blood pressure. And The Healthy says to avoid both high and low blood pressure induced from anesthesia, make sure to give your correct weight to the anesthesiologist for the most accurate dosing.

Anesthetics are a wonder drug for those in need of surgery. If you find yourself about to undergo an operation or medical procedure requiring anesthetics in the future, knowing how it affects your body is good knowledge to have. And remember to ask your doctor or anesthesiologist any further questions about the drug's effects before you go under.