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Anaesthetics, RAH and VoL

Having an Anaesthetic

Department of Anaesthetics

This information applies to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley and the Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria

If you are coming for an operation in hospital then you will often require an anaesthetic. We provide anaesthesia to allow you to tolerate operations and procedures in comfort and safety. This may be a local anaesthetic where you remain awake, a local anaesthetic with sedation to make you drowsy or a full general anaesthetic where you will be asleep. These techniques are administered by anaesthetists who are doctors who specialise in peri-operative medicine.

Before your operation you may be invited to attend the pre-assessment clinic, these are at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Vale of Leven sites. Here we can discuss your current health and any medications you take as it is important that your general health is as good as it can be before you have an operation.

The choice of anaesthetic technique will often depend on what type of surgery you are having and your anaesthetist will discuss these options with you.

We have provided some more information on each of these options and what options are commonly used in some types of operation.

Types of Anaesthetic:

  • General Anaesthetic - is used for operations where you're totally unconscious.
  • Regional Anaesthetic - this is a local anaesthetic given to a specific region of your body (for example, an arm), giving numbness or pain relief for deeper operations where more extensive numbness is needed
  • Spinal Anaesthetic - a type of regional anaesthetic used to give total numbness lasting about 3 hours to the lower parts of the body so surgery can be safely carried out in this area
  • Epidural Anaesthetic - a type of regional anaesthetic usually used to numb the lower half of the body; for example, as pain relief during labour and childbirth
  • Sedation - medication that makes you feel sleepy and relaxes you both physically and mentally; it's sometimes used to keep you calm during minor, painful or unpleasant procedures

Anaesthetics for specific operations

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are anaesthetics risky?   Anaesthetics generally are very safe. However there is a risk with any surgery or anaesthetic no matter how minor. Risks are primarily determined by your own medical history and general health, hence the importance of pre-assessment, and also the type and complexity of surgery. Your anaesthetist will discuss those risks which are relevant and significant to you and we work hard at minimising the risk to you.

What side effects or complications can I expect?  Common side effects (about a 1 in 10 chance)

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Aches and pains

Uncommon but treatable complications (about a 1 in 1,000 chance)

  • chest infection
  • medical problems getting worse
  • bladder problems
  • damage to your teeth
  • breathing problems

Rare complications (about a 1 in 10,000 chance)

  • serious but treatable allergy to a drug
  • nerve damage, usually temporary
  • awareness (becoming conscious during your operation)

Very rare complications (about a 1 in 1,000,000 chance)

  • infection from a blood transfusion
  • death

Is there anything I cannot do after my anaesthetic?   Your anaesthetic will affect your ability to concentrate, coordinate or make decisions for up to 24 hours. For your own well being it is important that you observe the following precautions for 24 hours after the procedure, particularly if you have had a procedure as a day case:

  • DO NOT drive a car or any other vehicle
  • DO NOT ride a motorcycle, bicycle or horse
  • DO NOT operate machinery
  • DO NOT make important decisions
  • DO NOT take alcohol
  • Only take a sedative or painkiller with advice from the hospital or a doctor
  • If you have a day case procedure it is important that someone escorts you home and stays with you for the next 24 hours.

Further information

The most up to date information relating to UK anaesthetic practice can be found through these organisations:

Last Updated: 15 August 2018