A specialist doctor called an anaesthetist will give you drugs to send you to sleep or to numb an area of the body. This is called anaesthesia and it will prevent you feeling pain or discomfort during surgery. The anaesthetist may also give you other drugs to manage pain and nausea.
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Meeting your anesthetist
When you meet your anaesthetist before surgery, it is important to tell them about any medical conditions or drug allergies you have, when you last ate or drank, and if you have had a previous reaction to an anaesthetic (including if you took a long time to wake up).
There are different types of anaesthetic used for surgery. The type you have will depend on the procedure you are having and your overall health. You may have more than one type of anaesthetic during surgery.
|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 part of the body being operated on. It is usually done as 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. You may be given a light sedative to help you relax, or stronger medicine to put you to sleep.|
|General anaesthetic||You will be given strong drugs to make you go to sleep (fall unconscious). Both injectable drugs and gases can be used. Some people say that having a general anaesthetic feels like a deep, dreamless sleep. You may experience some side effects, such as nausea and confusion, 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.Craig
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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