Many people can be anxious and concerned before they come into hospital for an operation. This page provides basic information about your anaesthetic and how to prepare for it. More detailed or specific information can be made available either by contacting us or by using the links and documents in the “More information” section.
BEFORE YOUR OPERATION
It can be done in various ways:
- general anaesthetic: you will be made unconscious using anaesthetic drugs and experience nothing during the procedure.
- regional anaesthetic (“block”): a large part of your body (e.g. an arm or both legs) can be made numb using a targeted injection. If you choose, you will be able to stay conscious during your operation without feeling any pain. Sedation can supplement regional anaesthesia to allow a light sleep during the procedure.
- local anaesthetic: a smaller part of your body will be made numb
- a combination of the above
The anaesthetist will discuss all the options available for your particular operation and agree with you on a plan for your anaesthetic and pain control.
- If you smoke, giving up for several weeks before the operation reduces the risk of breathing problems and makes your anaesthetic safer. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help.
- If you have loose teeth or crowns, treatment from your dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth if the anaesthetist needs to put a tube in your throat to help you breathe.
- If you have a long-standing medical problem such as diabetes, asthma or bronchitis, heart problems or high blood pressure, you should ask your GP if you need a checkup.
Pre-operative fasting (“Nil by mouth”)
The hospital will give you clear instructions about fasting, and it is important to follow these for your own safety. It is very important that your stomach is empty before you have an anaesthetic.
As a general rule, you should not eat for at least six hours before your anaesthetic, and clear fluids (water, squash, tea or coffee without milk, but NOT fruit juice with pulp, milk or fizzy drinks) may be drunk only until two hours before.
ON THE DAY OF YOUR OPERATION
After you have seen the surgeon and the anaesthetist and are ready, you will be taken to the operating theatre. You will be asked to confirm your identity and what operation you are having, as well as a few other questions about your health, allergies, etc. This checklist process might seem repetitive, but it is done for your own benefit and to improve your safety.
The anaesthetist will be there to provide the type of anaesthetic agreed with you beforehand, and will remain with you throughout your operation, even when you are unconscious. This is in order to keep you safe at all times and also to carefully fine-tune the anaesthetic.
At the end of surgery, the anaesthetist will ensure you wake up safely and then transfer you to the recovery room, where a specially trained nurse will monitor and assist you until you are ready to be taken back to the ward.
AFTER YOUR OPERATION
When you are safe and well you will be allowed to leave hospital, and will be given pain killers and any other required medication to take home with you. You will also receive detailed advice and instructions about getting back to normal, returning to work, etc
Please contact us for further specific information, or if you have any specific concerns with regards to your health or to having an anaesthetic.