Anaesthesia and You


One of the most common questions from patients is regarding the Anaesthetic that will be used and how it will affect them. Here is some information that may help.

“There is no safer place in the world to have an anaesthetic than in Australia”

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists

All the anaesthetists that work at Liverpool Day Surgery are specialists – that is, they are among the world’s most highly trained Doctors having spent years undergoing specialist training in anaesthesia, pain control, resuscitation and managing medical emergencies. All of our anaesthetists are actively involved in the training and assessing of new anaesthetists.

Most people will experience an anaesthetic at some time in their lives. Some will undergo anaesthesia many times. It is common for people to be uneasy about having an anaesthetic, yet modern anaesthesia is very safe and, indeed modern surgery would not be possible without developments in anaesthesia.

The role of the anaesthetist

People often think of anaesthesia as being put to sleep. However, that’s not strictly true. Rather, the anaesthetist puts you into a state of carefully controlled unconsciousness. This is done so that surgery is painless.

No chances are taken during this period. All your bodily functions are carefully and constantly monitored by your anaesthetist.

After your procedure we want you to experience as little pain and discomfort as possible and here again, the anaesthetist will help.

Your role

There are some things you can do which will make your anaesthetic safer-

If you have any kind of health problem, inform your anaesthetist.

Inform your anaesthetist if you use recreational drugs as these may interact with the anaesthetic.

What should I tell the anaesthetist?

Your anaesthetist will meet with you before your operation, to discuss the risks, and to perform a relevant examination. The anaesthetist will want to know.

The anaesthetist wants to have the best picture of you and your present conditions so that the most suitable anaesthetic can be planned. Answer all questions honestly, it is really all about minimising risk to you.

Is fasting really necessary?

We know the pangs of hunger can be severe but no food or drink before the operation is a must, this includes chewing gum. Food or fluid in the stomach may be vomited and enter your lungs while you are unconscious. If you do not follow the fasting rules your operation will be postponed in the interests of your safety.

General, regional, local or sedation?

This question relates to the type of anaesthetic you will receive depending on the nature and duration of your operation.

General anaesthesia

You are put into a state of unconsciousness for the duration of the operation. This is achieved and maintained by injecting drugs through a needle placed in a vein, combined with a mixture of gases which you will breathe

Regional anaesthesia

A nerve block numbs the part of the body where the surgeon operates and this avoids a general anaesthetic. You may be awake and free of pain, or sedated (see below). Examples of regional anaesthetics include eye blocks for cataracts and epidurals for labour.

Local anaesthesia

A local anaesthetic is injected at the site of the surgery to cause numbness. You will be awake, but comfortable and feel no pain. An obvious example is numbing an area of skin before having a cut stitched.

Sedation

To make things more pleasant, the anaesthetist might administer drugs to make you relaxed and drowsy. Sometimes called twilight sleep or neurolept, and often used for Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy.

All of the above types of anaesthetic require a minimum 6 hour fasting period.

After your operation

Your anaesthetist will continue to monitor your condition carefully, well after surgery has finished, to ensure that your recovery is as smooth and trouble free as possible.

Once awake, you may feel drowsy. You may have a sore throat, feel sick or have a headache. These are temporary and will soon pass. To help the recovery process, you will be given oxygen to breathe and encouraged to take deep breaths

Infections

Needles, syringes and intravenous lines are all used only once and they are disposed of immediately afterwards. Cross infection from one patient to another is thus eliminated.

Going home

The best part is that most people now go home much sooner after surgery. Make sure there is somebody to drive you home (public transport is not permitted by yourself, this includes taxis and DVA transport) and stay with you for 24hours after your operation. It is also important that for 24 hours after your operation you do not make important decisions, use any dangerous equipment or tools, sign any legal documents or drink alcohol.

Anaesthesia – the risks & complications

Firstly, let’s get this into perspective. There is no safer place in the world to have an anaesthetic than in Australia. Nevertheless, some patients are at an increased risk of complication because of their own health status and/or the type of surgery they are undergoing. Here at Liverpool Day Surgery we have a strict criteria which the patient must meet before having an anaesthetic.

Some infrequent complications include: Bruising, pain or some injury at the site of injections, temporary breathing difficulties, temporary nerve damage, muscle pains, asthmatic reactions, headaches, the possibility of sensation during the operation, damage to teeth and dental prostheses, lip and tongue injury, temporary difficulty speaking and epileptic seizure.

There can also be some very rare, serious complications including heart attack, stroke, severe allergic or sensitivity reactions, brain damage, kidney or liver failure, lung damage, paraplegia or quadriplegia, permanent nerve or blood vessel damage, eye injury, damage to the larynx (voice box) and vocal cords. Remember, the possibility of more serious complications including death is quite remote, but it does exist.

We urge you to ask questions. Your anaesthetist will be happy to answer them and to discuss the best way to work with you for the best possible outcome.