Anaesthesia is now generally very safe. There are a number of different anaesthetic techniques available. The type of anaesthetic you receive will depend on your general health, the planned procedure and your own preferences. Regardless of the anaesthetic technique employed, your anaesthetist will remain with you throughout the procedure in order to maximise your comfort and safety.
Types of anaesthetic
When you receive a general anaesthetic, you will be asleep for the operation. Your anaesthetist will normally insert a small drip into a vein on the back of your hand or arm and then inject a combination of drugs that will send you to sleep. You will then be kept asleep using drugs delivered with the oxygen you breathe or drugs that are given through the drip in your hand. At the end of your operation, the anaesthetist will stop these drugs, allowing you to wake up.
Sedative drugs cause a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness. In contrast to a general anaesthetic, during sedation you may be aware of your surroundings and will often be able to talk with your anaesthetist. Sedation is normally provided using a drug or combination of drugs given through a drip in the back of your hand. It is often used to complement a local anaesthetic or a regional anaesthetic block.
Regional Anaesthetic Block
A "regional block" will cause numbness of a region of your body. The two regional blocks commonly used are called spinals and epidurals. Both of these techniques involve the injection of local anaesthetic through a very fine needle into the space around the nerves in your back, in order to temporarily prevent pain. These techniques alone do not cause drowsiness. However, your anaesthetist will often provide some sedation or a general anaesthetic in addition to your regional block. This is normally discussed when your anaesthetist sees you prior to your operation.
Local Anaesthetic Block
A "local block" or "nerve block" will cause numbness of a small part of your body, e.g. your arm or leg, in order to provide relief of pain following your operation. Either before or just after you go to sleep, the anaesthetist will inject local anaesthetic around the nerve or nerves in your arm or leg, so that it feels more comfortable when you wake up.
After many operations, the surgeon will inject some local anaesthetic into the skin around the surgical incision, producing a numb patch around the wound.
If you have any specific concerns with respect to your health or to having an anaesthetic, please contact our secretary, Mrs Oonagh Egerton, by phone or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For further information, please follow this link to the Royal College of Anaesthetists Website entitled "Patients and Relatives". http://www.rcoa.ac.uk/patients-and-relatives