What is Anaesthesia?

Anaesthesia is the absence of pain and other sensation in all or part of your body.

General Anaesthesia

This is a state of carefully controlled reversible unconsciousness. During general anesthesia you have no awareness of anything, you do not feel any sensations, including pain, you do not dream or form memories.

Sedation

This is an altered state of consciousness involving reduced anxiety, a sense of sleepiness, relaxation and often reduced memory formation. You may be aware of your surroundings. It often accompanies some form of local anaesthesia.

Regional and Local Anaesthesia

Part of the body is made numb using an injected local anaesthetic medicine. The most common examples are spinal and epidural anaethetics where the lower half of the body is made temporarily numb. Eye local anaesthetics and arm blocks are other common examples.

What is an anaesthetist?

An anaesthetist is a specialist doctor, like the surgeon, who has completed a medical degree at university (for between 5-7 years) and then done a period of hospital training (average 8-9 years) specifically in anaesthesia, intensive care, emergency, pain and peri-operative medicine. They are highly trained to look after you during surgery. Your anaesthetist will watch your condition carefully until you have safely awoken in the recovery room.

What are the risks?

Risks associated with anaesthesia depend on many factors including the type of surgery, the medical condition and age of the patient, and the urgency of the procedure.

Fortunately adverse events are rare. Your anaesthetist takes precautions to minimise or prevent adverse events.

The information presented here is as a general guide only. Specific risks vary form patient to patient and you are encouraged at all times to ask questions and to gather information from other sources.

The following may occur:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore throat
  • Pain, infection or injury at the site of injection of anaesthetic medication
  • Temporary nerve damage this may result in numbness, pain or loss of function of the affected part
  • Muscle pain
  • Damage to teeth, lips or tongue, skin or eyes
  • Asthmatic reaction

Rare but very serious reactions include:

  • Awareness
  • Heart attack, stroke, severe allergy or brain damage may occur
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Permanent nerve damage or paralysis resulting in the loss of function of limbs, breathing control, bladder or bowel function. Damage to the voice box that may result in permanent voice changes
  • Damage to the voice box that may result in permanent voice changes
  • Infection from blood transfusion by bacteria, hepatitis or HIV/Aids

The anaesthetic may affect your judgment.

For 24 hours you must not:

  • Drive
  • Operate machinery
  • Cook
  • Sign any legal documents