What is Anaesthesia?

Anaesthesia encompasses many different aspects of caring for patients who require an operation or who are in pain.

Anaesthesia has evolved throughout history and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The need for painful procedures to save, prolong or improve life has existed since antiquity. The science to permit patients to undergo reversible alteration of consciousness and nerve blocks to reduce perception of painful stimuli has existed for a much shorter time. For further details about the history of anaesthesia, see www.rcoa.ac.uk/about-the-college/history-of-anaesthesia. Further information regarding anaesthesia and the role of anaesthetists can be found at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists website

What is Spinal, Epidural and Regional Anaesthesia?

Spinal, epidural and regional anaesthetic techniques are designed to reduce or prevent painful sensation in part of the body. These procedures are distinct from general anaesthesia or sedation.

Spinal, epidural and regional anaesthetic techniques can be used outside of the operating theatre to reduce discomfort, for example after an operation. They can also be used in the operating theatre to prevent pain either whilst the patient stays awake for the operation, such as in caesarean section or undergoes general anaesthesia as well, such as in large abdominal operations.

Spinal and epidural anaesthesia are techniques that involve procedures being performed by your anaesthetist on your back. Your anaesthetist will discuss this procedure with you. Depending on your situation, this may include just a single injection with nothing remaining on your back through to leaving a small catheter in-situ to continue to give ongoing medication for pain relief.

Regional Anaesthesia includes many procedures where local anaesthetic or other pain reducing medications are injected around nerves in the body. These procedures can be performed on many anatomical locations on the body including groin, knee, ankle or shoulder.

What is General Anaesthesia?

General anaesthesia is a state of reversible unconsciousness that is induced by the use of medicines. There are usually multiple medicines used and may include tablets before the operation, medicines through an intravenous drip or gases to breathe.

This alteration of consciousness is controlled by an anaesthetist who administers the medications and carefully monitors their effects and the status of heart, lungs, brain and other bodily systems. The anaesthetist is present to ensure your safety at all times.