If you’re having a minor cosmetic surgery operation, such as chin liposuction, your plastic surgeon will probably suggest performing it on an outpatient basis using local anesthetics or “twilight” anesthesia that allows you to stay awake during the procedure. But if you’re having a more complex surgery or a combination of several procedures, especially ones on or around your chest or abdomen — such as a Mommy Makeover (liposuction, tummy tuck, and breast lift) — your plastic surgeon schedules your surgery in the hospital, where you’ll undergo general anesthesia so that you remain unconscious and pain-free.
You Don’t “Go to Sleep”
While popular wisdom usually equates general anesthesia with “going to sleep,” the medications involved don’t actually induce a sleep state at all. In fact, one of the most striking things about your experience under anesthesia is how little it seems like sleep. One moment, your anesthesiologist asks you to count down from “100” (you’ll probably won’t get to “90”), and the next thing you know, you’re in the recovery room, and your beautiful tummy tuck, breast augmentation, etc., has already been performed.
A Controlled State
The combination of medications your anesthesiologist gives you may include hypnotic agents, opioids, muscle relaxants, sedatives and cardiovascular drugs. This cocktail is designed to keep you unconscious throughout the entire procedure, immobilize your body, prevent you from feeling pain, and prevent you from remembering anything that happened during the operation.
You don’t dream while under anesthesia. You also can’t wake up, move, or do any of things you normally do while sleeping.
Being under general anesthesia is a kind of induced, controlled, and reversible coma. That’s why a cosmetic surgeon in Las Vegas like Julio Garcia, MD, works with a highly skilled anesthesiologist who constantly monitors your vital signs and your medication levels to keep you safe and pain free.
Preparing for General Anesthesia
If Dr. Garcia recommends general anesthesia, he first ensures that you’re in good health by conducting a physical examination and taking a complete medical history. He may also ask that you obtain clearance from your primary care physician or another member of your medical team. Cosmetic plastic surgeries are elective procedures, and you should not receive them if you have health issues that could cause complications.
About two weeks before your scheduled surgery, you must stop smoking and also discontinue the use of any blood thinners, such as aspirin or gingko biloba. Dr. Garcia’s team gives you a complete list of drugs, supplements, and blood-thinning foods to avoid before and after your surgery.
Because general anesthesia relaxes the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract and airway that prevent food or acids from traveling into your lungs, you must fast for at least eight hours before your surgery. You may be able to drink water for up to a few hours before your operation.
When it’s time for your cosmetic surgery, you’ll change into a medical gown. A nurse may place IV lines in your arm and then bring you into the operating room on a stretcher.
Your anesthesiologist and your surgeon explain the procedure that you’re about to undergo. Your anesthesiologist then either begins administering the general anesthesia through the IV lines or through an injection.
Once you’re asleep, your anesthesiologist may insert a tube through your mouth and down your airway to keep it open. Your anesthesiologist monitors and adjusts your medications, body temperature, fluids, and blood pressure continuously during the surgery.
Just as you weren’t really asleep, when you regain consciousness after general anesthesia, it feels different than “waking up.” You may be groggy and still amnesic. In fact, it’s common that if someone talks to you while you’re regaining consciousness, you won’t remember what they say.
You’ll probably feel confused until the anesthesia completely wears off. You may also have some unpleasant symptoms, such as a sore throat, nausea, or vomiting.
Depending on how long you were “under,” you may stay overnight at the hospital or at a surgical recovery center. If you’re cleared to go home, you’ll need someone to drive you and help you for the next few days to weeks as your body heals from your surgery.
If Dr. Garcia recommended general anesthesia for your procedures, you may need a recovery period of at two to six weeks. You may feel pain as the anesthesia wears off, so Dr. Garcia may recommend or prescribe medications to keep you comfortable.
You should also have pre-arranged for a friend, relative, or nurse to take care of you during your first few days at home or in a recovery center. You may need help getting two and from the bathroom. You shouldn’t try to work, take care of your kids, or do any household chores.
Elective cosmetic surgery is a gift to yourself, so be sure you also give yourself the gift of a fully relaxing and uneventful recovery. If you live out of town and need help finding post-surgical accommodations, or if you’d like to rest up in a recovery center, be sure to let Dr. Garcia’s cosmetic surgeon in Las Vegas staff know well in advance of your procedure so they can make arrangements for you.