General Patient Information

This information is to help you understand what is involved in anaesthesia. It is not a substitute for an informed discussion about your particular anaesthetic requirements prior to your operation.

The role of the anaesthetist
  • discuss types of anaesthesia with you and find out what you would like, helping you to make choices
  • discuss the risks of anaesthesia with you
  • agree a plan with you for your anaesthetic and pain control
  • are responsible for giving your anaesthetic and for your wellbeing and safety throughout your surgery
  • manage any blood transfusions you may need
  • make your experience as calm and pain free as possible
Some types of anaesthesia

Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain and other sensations. It may be given in various ways and does not always make you unconscious.

Local anaesthsia – given by an injection through the skin and makes a small part of your body numb. You will be awake but free from pain.

Regional anaesthesia (eg spinal, epidural)– an injection through the skin that numbs a larger part of your body. You will be conscious but free from pain.

General anesthetic – is a state of controlled unconsciousness. It is essential for some operations. You will be unconscious and feel nothing.

Before the procedure

Follow the guidelines in your hospital information pack regarding fasting status. It is important for your safety that you have nothing in your stomach as food or fluid in the stomach may be vomited and enter your lungs while you are unconscious. If this rule is not followed then it will result in your operation being cancelled. This also includes cigarette smoking and chewing gum.

Before the operation the anaesthetist will perform a thorough health questionnaire and discuss the anaesthetic plan with you.

The choice of anaesthetic depends on:

  • your operation
  • your answers to the questions you have been asked
  • your physical condition
  • your preferences and the reasons for them
  • your anaesthetist’s recommendations for you and the reasons for them
  • the equipment, staff and other resources at your hospital
After the procedure

It is important you do not drive, operate heavy machinery, use alcohol or sleeping tablets or make any important decisions for at least 24 hours after your anaesthetic as your judgement and reaction times may still be impaired.

For women on the contraceptive pill, the postoperative medication may affect the reliability of the pill so you should use other means of contraception for 7 days after an anaesthetic.

Side effects and complications

There is no safer place to have an anaesthetic than in Australia.

However, some patients have increased risks of problems because of their own health problems such as heart or lung disease, obesity and also because of the type of surgery they are undergoing.

Very common and common side effects

These include feeling sick and vomiting after surgery and a sore throat from the plastic breathing tube inserted while you are asleep.

Uncommon side effects and complications

Occasionally during the course of anaesthetic there can be damage to teeth (chipped, loose or knocked out). This is usually noted at the time by the anaesthetist and discussed afterwards but if not then please contact us after your operation to discuss it.

Awareness (or being awake under anaesthetic) occurs rarely but can have devastating psychological effects if it occurs. All patients having an anaesthetic in Australia are monitored throughout the operation by the anaesthetist to prevent this devastating event from occurring. If you have had awareness in the past please discuss this with your anaesthetist prior to surgery.

Rare or very rare complications

The chance of having an allergic reaction, serious medical emergency or dying under anaesthetic is extremely rare. In Australia, all anaesthetists have been highly trained and passed rigorous examinations to ensure your safety. Anaesthetists are trained to manage all emergency medical situations that may arise during your hospital stay and therefore you are in the best hands if a serious and unforeseen event occurs.

If you would like more information regarding risks associated with anaesthetics please discuss these with your anaesthetist prior to your surgery or look at the links below for more details.