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FAQs About Anaesthetics

General Information

The best sources of up to date information about anaesthetics, risks and common side effects can be found on the web sites of the professional bodies that orgainse and regulate anaesthetic services in the UK. Links to these are given below.



Trust information sheets are currently being updated but will be added here when completed.

Your anaesthetic

What should I do about taking my medications?

You will have been asked for details about your medications when you were seen for preassessment and should have been given specific instructions. There are some medications that you will have been told to stop some days before the operation (e.g. blood thinning medications). If you have forgotten what you were told about your other medications the following general principle may help.

As a general rule it is better to take medications and inhalers as normal on the day of operation except:

  • diabetic medications


What about my herbal/homeopathic drugs?

These should be stopped 14 days before your operation unless you have been specifically asked to continue them.


What about eating and drinking?

To make vomiting less likely and for your own safety we need to ensure that your stomach is empty before an anaesthetic. You should not eat anything, or chew gum for 6 hours beforehand. You may drink clear non-fizzy fluids up to 2 hours before the anaesthetic. Clear fluid are black tea or coffee, juice/squash that contains no bits or water. A little water to take tablets is acceptable.

We ask you to restrict you intake to reduce the risk of stomach contents causing problems with your breathing during the anaesthetic.


What will happen when I get to the hospital?

The nursing staff will admit you to the preoperative admission area that you have been asked to attend. They will recheck many of your details and explain what is going to happen. At some point the anaesthetist and surgeon will come and see you. All patients are asked to come in before the start of the list so you can be seen by the team before they go to start the operating session. This allows us to make best use of operating theatre capacity. Unfortunately it means that some patients will have quite a long wait before they get to the operating theatre. We apologise for this. You may want to bring a book or magazine to help pass the time if needed.


How will I go to sleep?

Once in the anaesthetic room, various monitors are attached to you to measure your blood pressure and heart rate. Some oxgen may then be given to you via a clear plastic face mask before the anaesthetic starts. Usually the anaesthetic is given by an injection into a vein on the hand or arm. Occasionally anaesthetic gases given by a face mask are used to induce anaesthesia instead of an injection.


Will I wake up in the middle of the operation?

If you are having a general operation this is extremely unlikely. The amount of anaesthetic gas in your breath is measured and monitored.


Will I wake up and where?

You will wake up after the anaesthetist turns off the anaesthetic once the operation has been completed. Most patients wake up in the recovery area though many do not remember anything until they are back on the ward. Occasionally with major operations patients may be taken to the intensive care unit when they are still asleep and woken up a few hours later.

Wherever you are when waking up there will be a doctor or nurse with you until you have fully regained consciousness.


Will I have pain after my operation?

This will depend on the extent of the surgery performed. Often the answer is yes, but it is controlled by drugs so that it is manageable. Everyone is given some kind of pain killer, often very strong painkillers into a vein during the anaesthetic. If needed, after the operation you may be given painkillers by injection, tablet or suppository (with your permission).

There are also other special techniques for relief of pain for some operations that you may be offered and these will be explained to you by the anaesthetist beforehand if indicated.

If you are in pain let your nurse know so that you can be given something to relieve it.


Will I vomit or feel sick?

Most patients do not vomit or feel sick. If you do feel sick let the nurse know so that you can be given something to treat it.

If you were sick after a previous operation let the anaesthetist know so that you can be given something to make sickness less likely this time.


Are anaesthetics risky?

Anaesthetics generally are very safe. However there is a risk with any surgery or anaesthetic no matter how minor. Risks are primarily determined by your own medical history and general health, hence the importance of preassessment, and also the type and complexity of surgery.Your anaesthetist will discuss those risks which are relevant and significant to you and we work hard at minimising the risk to you.

What side effects or complications can I expect?

Common side effects (about a 1in 10 chance)

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Aches and pains

Uncommon but treatable complications (about a 1 in 1000 chance)

  • chest infection
  • medical problems getting worse
  • bladder problems
  • damage to your teeth
  • breathing problems

Rare complications (about a 1 in 10,000 chance)

  • serious but treatable allergy to a drug
  • nerve damage, usually temporary
  • awareness (becoming conscious during your operation)

Very rare complications About a 1 in 1000,000 chance)

  • infection from a blood transfusion
  • death


Is there anything I cannot do after my anaesthetic?

Your anaesthetic will affect your ability to concentrate, coordinate or make decisions for up to 24hours. For your own well being it is important that you observe the following precautions for 24 hours after the procedure, particularly if you have had a procedure as a day case:

  • DO NOT drive a car or any other vehicule
  • DO NOT ride a motorcycle, bicycle or horse
  • DO NOT operate machinery
  • DO NOT make important decisions
  • DO NOT take alcohol
  • Only take a sedative or painkiller with advice froom the hospital or a doctor

If you have a day case procedure it is important that someone escorts you home and stays with you for the next 24 hours.