There are three levels of anesthesia: local, regional and general. The first two numb or block pain in a particular part of the body, while leaving the patient awake during a surgical procedure. General anesthesia is what’s known as “going under.” Using an injection or gas, an anesthesiologist induces unconsciousness, a sleep-like state in which you are unable to feel pain and are completely unaware of what’s going on around (or inside) you. The drugs work by temporarily disrupting communication in the brain, rendering it unable to respond to pain signals. They decrease the release of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that allow one brain cell to “talk to” another.
Depending on the strength of the drug (or drugs) used, it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to several days after surgery for anesthesia to wear off. In the meantime, while the brain puts its pipes back together, a patient is likely to feel dazed, confused and groggy, and may—as we’ve seen—have some temporary memory loss.QUIZ: Do You Get the Sleep Your Body Needs?Impaired judgment can be a side effect, too, says Roizen: “We have had guys propose to recovery room nurses only to forget about it two or three hours later.” Talk about not knowing your wife.