About your anaesthetic

Q. What is anaesthesia?

The word "anaesthesia" means "without feeling". General anaesthesia is when a person is rendered unconscious for the purpose of allowing surgery to take place. It comprises many elements, including management of consciousness, maintenance of vital body functions such as breathing and blood pressure, and pain management. Local or regional anaesthesia is where nerves are numbed to a certain part of the body, and can be performed alone or in addition to general anaesthesia.

The practice of anaesthesia requires a combination of clinical interventions by an anaesthetist that allows the patient to have their procedure undertaken with minimal discomfort and distress. It is the anaesthetist's role to assess you and your health, in the context of the procedure and to determine the best strategy to ensure your comfort and safety before, during, and after the procedure.

Your anaesthetist stays with you throughout the entire procedure administering medication and managing consciousness, comfort, breathing, and heart function to ensure the safest and most comfortable outcome possible.

More information is available here.

Q. What is an anaesthetist?

A specialist anaesthetist is a doctor who has undertaken at least five years of dedicated training in anaesthesia and related practice. This is in addition to their medical degree and basic medical training, and so in total training is typically between nine and fourteen years. Specialist training is coordinated by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), and involves rigorous assessment and examination.

Because of the extremely high standard of this training, specialist anaesthetists in Australia are among the world's most highly trained doctors.

Some General Practitioners are also trained to administer sedation or anaesthesia as non-specialists, having completed one-year of anaesthesia training.

At Riverina Anaesthesia, a specialist anaesthetist will consult with and examine you prior to your procedure, and together with you will devise the safest and best plan for your anaesthetic.

More information is available here.

Q. What are the different types of anaesthetic?

There are four types of anaesthesia, which may be used in combination:

Local anaesthesia

A medication ("local anaesthetic") is injected to numb an area of skin. This is often all that is required for a minor skin procedure and will provide pain relief after the procedure.

Regional anaesthesia
Local anaesthetic is injected near nerves to numb a larger area of the body. Examples of this include a spinal or epidural (such as for women in labour, or for hip and knee replacements) or "nerve blocks" used for the arm, leg or abdominal wall. Ultrasound may be used to visualise the nerves to improve accuracy and safety. Regional anaesthesia is also helpful in reducing post-operative pain.
Sedation uses anaesthetic drugs in smaller quantities to make you sleepy, relieve anxiety and provide comfort. This is commonly used in day procedures such as endoscopy. It is short acting, meaning you can eat, drink and go home earlier than if you had a general anaesthetic. It may also be used in combination with local or regional anaesthesia.
General anaesthesia
General anaesthesia uses medication to make you completely unconscious, aiming to prevent awareness and maintain comfort during the procedure. You are closely monitored throughout and medications are given to maintain unconsciousness, provide pain relief, relax your muscles and support your vital systems.

More information is available here.

Q. What are the risks of anaesthesia?

Due to the extensive specialist medical training, as well as modern anaesthesia equipment and medications, anaesthesia undertaken in Australia is very safe. There is, however, a level of risk associated with every part of our daily lives, and undergoing anaesthesia for a procedure is no different.

The most common side effects of anaesthesia include postoperative nausea and vomiting, sore throat, and minor injuries to the mouth and teeth.

Serious adverse events with anaesthesia are rare. They include life-threatening allergic reactions, cardiovascular or respiratory problems, and death. Your level of risk may be increased with health problems such as obesity, heart disease or smoking.

Adverse effects of spinal anaesthesia (used commonly for Caesarean Sections, urology and hip and knee surgery) include nausea, vomiting, headache, and damage to nerves which is usually self-resolving. Serious adverse effects are rare and include bleeding, infection, and spinal cord injury.

Smoking can adversely affect your anaesthetic and we encourage patients to abstain from smoking from as early as possible.

The information here is of a general nature only. Your anaesthetist will offer to discuss the side effects and risks of your anaesthetic with you. You are encouraged to ask any questions that you have, and to contact your anaesthetist in advance if you have any particular concerns.

More information is available here.