Anaesthesia explained

Published: 02/08/2019

How did it all go?

Occasionally, problems happen during an anaesthetic which may affect you the next time you need an anaesthetic. For example, you may have had an allergic reaction to a drug, or it may have been difficult to place a breathing tube in your airway. Your anaesthetist will tell you about anything significant that has happened. It is important to keep a note of this so you can tell an anaesthetist in the future.

After an anaesthetic  

How you feel afterwards depends mainly on the operation you have had, and on the pain-relief medicine that you need to treat any pain that you have. 

General anaesthetics can cause side effects which are generally short-lived (last a few hours).

You may feel tired or even exhausted for some days after the operation. After major surgery this can last weeks or months. This is very unlikely to be caused by the anaesthetic. Causes of tiredness after surgery include:

  • worry before the operation
  • poor sleep patterns
  • pain
  • blood loss causing anaemia
  • the condition that needed the surgery, and
  • poor eating and drinking.

These will gradually improve as you leave hospital and you are healing. 

Benefits and risks of having an anaesthetic

Anaesthesia has made modern surgery possible. Sophisticated operations can be offered with a high degree of comfort and safety. 

However, there are risks associated with having an anaesthetic. These may be weighed up against the likely benefits of the operation. 

Everyone varies in the risks they are willing to take. Your anaesthetist will describe the risk to you, but only you can decide how much the risk affects your plan to have the operation you would like.

Thinking about risk 

The risk to you as an individual depends on:  

  • whether you have any other illness
  • personal factors such as whether you smoke or are overweight, and
  • whether the operation is complicated, long, or done as an emergency.

To understand the risk fully you need to know:

  • how likely it is to happen
  • how serious it could be, and
  • how it can be treated if it happens.

The anaesthetist can also advise you whether there are any anaesthetic techniques that will reduce those risks.

Click here for more information about risk.