What is ‘anaesthesia’?
What are the different types of anaesthesia?
Who is the anaesthetist?
What should I do before coming to the hospital?
What about medicines, herbal remedies and allergies?
What choice of anaesthetic do I have?
What is ‘anaesthesia’?
The word ‘anaesthesia’ means ‘loss of sensation’.
- It stops you feeling pain and other sensations.
- It can be given in various ways.
- Not all anaesthesia makes you unconscious.
- It can be directed to different parts of the body.
What are the different types of anaesthesia
A local anaesthetic numbs a small part of your body. It is used when the nerves can easily be reached by drops, sprays, ointments or injections. You stay conscious but free from pain.
Local anaesthetic drugs are injected near to the bundles of nerves which carry signals from that area of the body to the brain. You stay conscious but free from pain.
General anaesthesia is a state of controlled unconsciousness during which you feel nothing. Anaesthetic drugs can injected into a vein, or anaesthetic gases can be breathed into the lungs. As the anaesthetic drugs wear off, your consciousness starts to return.
Anaesthetic drugs and techniques are often combined. For example, a regional anaesthetic may be given as well as a general anaesthetic to provide pain relief after the operation. Sometimes sedation can given to improve patient comfort.
The anaesthetist or anaesthesiologists
Anaesthetists (anaesthesiologists) are doctors who have had specialist training in anaesthesia, in the treatment of pain and in the care of very ill patients (intensive care).
Your anaesthetist is responsible for:
- your wellbeing and safety throughout your surgery
- agreeing a plan with you for your anaesthetic
- giving your anaesthetic
- planning your pain control with you
- managing any transfusions you may need
- your care in the Intensive Care Unit (if this is necessary).
You will be treated by a consultant anaesthetist, or by an anaesthetist in training. You can ask to talk to a consultant anaesthetist if you want to – there is always one available to help if needed.
Before you come into hospital
Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for your operation and reduce the likelihood of difficulties with the anaesthetic.
- If you smoke, you should consider giving up for several weeks before the operation. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. Smoking increases the risk of breathing problems during and after an operation. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help.
- If you are very overweight, many of the risks of having an anaesthetic are increased. Reducing your weight will help.
- If you have loose or broken teeth, or crowns that are not secure, you may want to visit your dentist for treatment. The anaesthetist may need to put a tube in your throat to help you breathe, and if your teeth are not secure, they may be damaged.
- If you have a long-term medical problem such as diabetes, asthma or bronchitis, thyroid problems, heart problems or high blood pressure (hypertension), you should ask your GP if you need a check-up.
Pills, medicines, herbal remedies and allergies
- A written list of everything you are taking, whether they have been prescribed or whether you have bought them over the counter, would be helpful for your anaesthetist.
- If you have any allergies, a note of these will also be helpful.
Choice Of Anaesthetic
Your anaesthetist will discuss with you which anaesthetic methods can be used.
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.
You will meet your anaesthetist before your operation, either on the ward the night before or in theatre complex prior to your surgery. You may also have been assessed by the Perioperative Assessment Clinic.
Your anaesthetist will look at the results of your health check and may ask you more questions about your health. He or she may also need to listen to your chest with a stethoscope, examine your neck and jaw movements, and look in your mouth.