Are anaesthetics safe?

Anaesthetic techniques and drugs have advanced considerably over the past 10-20 years and as a result anaesthesia is generally very safe. For most people there is a greater risk of dying in a car crash on the way to hospital than during an anaesthetic. However, in common with all medical interventions, anaesthesia has an element of risk which varies according to the circumstances. We aim to minimise the risks associated with your anaesthetic and pain medications.

Will I get a Pre-medication?

The term “pre-med” (pre-medication) is used to describe any medicine given to prepare you for the anaesthetic. It is not necessarily medicine to make you feel sleepy. In the past pre-meds were often given as injections and made patients very sleepy before and after the anaesthetic. Nowadays sedative pre-medications are not routinely given because it is safer to have you wide awake and comfortable as soon as possible after the procedure.

Why can’t I eat before my anaesthetic?

If you presented for your anaesthetic with food in your stomach there is a chance that it might passively come up your gullet and pass down into your lungs resulting in lung damage. Please see our starvation guidelines (https://theanaestheticgroup.co.uk/preparing-for-your-anaesthetic/).

Can I accompany my child in the anaesthetic room?

One parent can usually accompany their child into the anaesthetic room and may assist with some distraction therapy during the start of the anaesthetic. However on the very rare occasion that the anaesthetist will prefer a parent not to be present, but this will always be discussed with and explained to you at the pre-operative visit.

Will anyone be with me while I’m asleep?

Your consultant anaesthetist will always be present for the complete duration of your anaesthetic until you reach the recovery bay. They will constantly monitor your condition making sure you receive the right balance of oxygen, anaesthetic and pain relief

Why do I have to remove my false teeth / tongue piercing?

It is usually safer if anything that has the potential to move is removed from your mouth. Metal instruments may be passed over your tongue while you are asleep and tongue studs catch and get in the way. False teeth and tongue piercings can be reinserted in recovery.

How and where will I go to sleep?

Anaesthetics are usually given in an anaesthetic room adjacent to the operating theatre. Occasionally the anaesthetic will be given in the operating theatre itself.

Where will I wake up?

Most patients wake up in the recovery bay adjacent to the operating theatres although it’s not uncommon to wake up in the operating theatre itself. In the recovery bay, specially trained staff will  ensure your condition is stable before you return to your room.

Will I get a sore throat after my anaesthetic?

A sore throat is relatively common after a general anaesthetic. This is because a tube is placed in your throat to allow you to breath oxygen and anaesthetic gases. Any discomfort usually settles within hours, especially after starting drinking again, although it occasionally remains sore for a couple of days.

How soon after my anaesthetic can I eat and drink?

This depends on the type of surgery. For most surgery it is usual that you will able to have a light meal after a few hours if you would like. Eating and drinking too soon after an anaesthetic may increase the chances of you feeling sick.

How soon after my anaesthetic can I drive?

We advise that you wait at least 48 hours before driving a car, operating machinery or making important decisions. If you require strong painkillers or have had intermediate or major surgery this period may be longer.

For more detailed information on your anaesthetic, please follow the link below to the Royal College of Anaesthesia’s extensive resources and ask your consultant anaesthetist during the pre-operative visit on the day of surgery.

RCOA patient information resources