You will be given drugs (anaesthetic or anaesthesia) to temporarily block any pain or discomfort during the surgery. An anaesthetist will give you these drugs and check you throughout the operation.
Before you receive anaesthetic, the anaesthetist will talk to you about your medical history. They will also check the last time you ate or drank, and whether you have any allergies. It’s important to tell the anaesthetist if you have had a previous reaction to an anaesthetic.
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There are different types of anaesthetic:
|Light or conscious sedation||You will be given drugs to relax you and make you sleepy. You will still be able to respond to directions from your surgeon but may not remember what happened during the procedure.|
|Local anaesthetic||This involves numbing the skin or surface of the part of the body being operated on. It is usually done via an injection, but drops, sprays or ointments may be used instead. You may also be given a sedative to help you relax. You are still awake during surgery, but you won’t feel any pain or discomfort. The numbness typically lasts for several hours to a day.|
|Regional anaesthetic (nerve block)||A local anaesthetic is injected through a needle placed close to a nerve or nerves near the surgical site. This numbs the part of the body being operated on. A local anaesthetic cream is usually applied to the skin first to minimise the pain from the needle. You may be given a light sedative to help you relax, or stronger medicine to put you to sleep.|
|General anaesthetic||This is usually an injection of drugs into a vein that puts you into an unconscious state. A general anaesthetic can also be given as gas through a mask that the anaesthetist places over your face. You may experience some side effects, such as nausea, when you wake up from general anaesthetic. Most of these effects are temporary and are easily managed by your medical team.|
The doctor used local anaesthetic on the skin on my arm, then cut off the mole. I saw what was happening, but I didn’t feel any pain. The numbness wore off in a few hours.
It’s uncommon to have an allergic reaction to anaesthetic. Your medical team will review your medical records and general health to work out your risk of having a reaction. Anaesthetists are trained to recognise the harmful effects of anaesthetic. Your anaesthetist will monitor you throughout the surgery and give you medicine to manage any complications.
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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