This page is a printable version of: https://www.iow.nhs.uk/our-services/planned-care-services/anaethetics/anaesthetics.htm
Date: 28 November 2023
Anaesthetists look after people undergoing surgery in the operating theatre as well as looking after people who are critically ill, providing pain relief to women during labour and child birth and on general wards and in special clinics to help manage both short and long term pain.
Your anaesthetist is responsible for assessing your health and discussing with you which type of anaesthetic is most suitable for your surgery. This assessment usually happens on the day of the operation but in some cases may take the form of a special clinic appointment in the pre assessment unit some time before the operation.
If you are having a planned operation a specialist nurse trained in assessing patients will also see you some time before your operation.
During your operation an anaesthetist, or their trained deputy, will stay with you constantly and is responsible for keeping you safe. We use modern monitoring equipment to assess your condition continuously and give you drugs and fluids as required. After the operation we aim to make sure that you are as comfortable, nausea free and healthy as possible in the recovery room.
The word ‘anaesthesia’ means ‘loss of sensation’. Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain and other sensations. Not all anaesthesia makes you unconscious. There are several types of anaesthetic including local, regional and general.
A local anaesthetic numbs a small part of your body. It is used when the nerves can easily be reached by drops, sprays, ointments or injections. You stay conscious but free from pain.
Regional anaesthesia is when local anaesthetic drugs are injected near to the bundles of nerves which carry signals from that area of the body to the brain. The most common regional anaesthetics (or 'blocks') are spinal and epidural anaesthetics. These can be used for operations on the lower body such as a Caesarean section or hip replacement. You stay conscious but free from pain. However, sedative (sleepy-making) drugs can also be given to ensure you are calm and relaxed during the operation.
General anaesthesia is a state of controlled unconsciousness during which you feel nothing. Some operations can only be done with a general anaesthetic. Anaesthetic drugs are injected into a vein, or anaesthetic gases are breathed into the lungs. They stop the brain recognizing messages coming from the nerves in the body. As the anaesthetic drugs wear off, consciousness will return.
These three types of anaesthetic can be used individually or in combination to achieve the best and safest anaesthetic for each patient.
More detailed information about anaesthesia is available on the Royal College of Anaesthetics website - see links. There is also a website to help children of different ages understand what will happen when they have an operation.