If you're due to have surgery or a procedure in hospital, you may need anaesthesia. Anaesthesia is a combination of medicines that can make you unconscious, relieve pain, or numb a specific part of your body.
From the patient's perspective, anaesthesia reduces pain and discomfort during a procedure, and makes the experience less stressful. The word anaesthesia literally means "no feeling". Your anaesthetist can use powerful medications to kill pain, or numb an area so you have no feeling, or make you unconscious so you are unaware. Frequently medications are used to paralyse muscles, so that your surgery can be done successfully. If you are paralysed for an operation, you will be placed on a ventilator which will support your breathing.
Anaesthesia can be administered in different ways, depending on the type of procedure and your medical history. The anaesthetist, who is a doctor with very specialised training, will work with you and your surgeon to determine the best type of anaesthesia for your individual needs. They will also monitor you closely during the procedure to ensure that you remain safe and comfortable.
It's normal to feel anxious or nervous about anaesthesia, but it's important to remember that anaesthetists are highly trained and experienced in administering anaesthesia safely. They will explain the procedure to you in detail and answer any questions you may have.
At Blackrock Health, our hospitals in Dublin and Galway have a long-standing history of excellence in the field of surgery. To achieve these successes, we depend heavily on our consultant anaesthetists. Across the three hospitals, we have a shared history of many decades in providing expert anaesthetic care, and dedicated intensive care units. Our experienced and highly qualified anaesthetists are highly skilled in performing a wide range of anaesthetic procedures. These range from simple sedation, to regional anaesthesia such as spinals or epidurals, to the anaesthetics required for open-heart surgery. Such surgery could not be done without the skill and expertise of our anaesthetists and intensivists. We are committed to providing personalised care that is tailored to your individual needs. Our team works closely with other specialists to ensure that you receive the best possible care before, during and after your surgery. Whether you require anaesthesia for a minor issue or a more complex condition, we can help you on your journey towards the best possible outcome.
What is Anaesthesia?
Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain and other sensations. It can be given in various ways and does not always make you unconscious.
- Local anaesthesia involves injections which numb a small part of your body. You stay conscious but free from pain.
- Regional anaesthesia involves injections which numb a larger or deeper part of the body. You stay conscious but free from pain.
- General anaesthesia gives a state of controlled unconsciousness. It is essential for some operations. You are unconscious and feel nothing.
Local or Regional Anaesthetic
What to expect when having a local or regional anaesthetic.
A needle may be used to start your anaesthetic . Your anaesthetist will ask you to keep quite still while the injections are given. You may notice a warm tingling feeling as the anaesthetic begins to take effect. Your operation will only go ahead when you and your anaesthetist are sure that the area is numb. If you are not having sedation you will remain alert and aware of your surroundings. A screen shields the operating site, so you will not see the operation unless you want to. Your anaesthetist is always near to you and you can speak to him or her whenever you want to.
Sedation is the use of small amounts of anaesthetic or similar drugs to produce a ‘sleepy-like’ state.
What to expect when receiving a general anaesthetic. There are two ways of starting a general anaesthetic.
- Anaesthetic drugs may be injected into a vein through the cannula (this is generally used for adults)
- You can breathe anaesthetic gases and oxygen through a mask, which you may hold if you prefer
Once you are unconscious, an anaesthetist stays with you at all times and continues to give you drugs to keep you anaesthetised. As soon as the operation is finished, the drugs will be stopped or reversed so that you regain consciousness. After the operation, you may be taken to the recovery room. Recovery staff will be with you at all times. When they are satisfied that you have recovered safely from your anaesthetic you will be taken back to the ward.
Anaesthetists are doctors with specialist training who:
- Discuss types of anaesthesia
- Discuss the risks of anaesthesia
- Agree a plan with you for your anaesthetic and pain control
- Are responsible for giving your anaesthetic and for your wellbeing and safety throughout your surgery
- Manage any blood transfusions you may need
- Plan your care, if needed, in the intensive care unit.
- Make your experience as calm and pain free as possible
All our anaesthetists are on the Specialist Register for Anaesthesia of the Medical Council, and many have done further specialist training in Pain Management and Intensive Care.
Before Coming to Hospital
Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for your operation:
- If you smoke, giving up for several weeks before the operation reduces the risk of breathing problems and makes your anaesthetic safer. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help.
- If you are very overweight, reducing your weight will reduce many of the risks of having an anaesthetic.
- If you have loose teeth or crowns, treatment from your dentist is advisable.
Before your Anaesthetic
You will be asked some questions to check your health before your operation. This may be at a pre-assessment clinic, by filling in a questionnaire, by talking to doctors on the ward, or when you meet your anaesthetist.
It is important for you to bring a list of the following:
- All the pills, medicines, herbal remedies or supplements you are taking, both prescribed and those that you have purchased over the counter
- Any allergies you may have
On The Day Of Your Operation
Your anaesthetist will meet you before your operation and will discuss the following:
- Ask you about your health
- Discuss the types of anaesthetic can be used
- Discuss the benefits, risks and your preferences
Nothing will happen to you until you understand and agree with what has been planned for you. You have the right to refuse if you do not want the treatment suggested or if you want more information or more time to decide.
What Anaesthetic Will I Receive?
The choice of anaesthetic you're offered will depend on:
- Your operation
- Your answers to the questions you have been asked
- Your physical condition
- Your preferences and the reasons for them
Your anaesthetist’s recommendations for you and the reasons for them
When You Are Called For Your Operation
- A member of staff will go with you to the theatre.
- A relative or friend may be able to go with you to the theatre reception area. A parent will normally go with a child.
- You can wear your glasses, hearing aids and dentures until you are in the anaesthetic room. If you are having a local or regional anaesthetic, you may keep them on.
- Jewellery and decorative piercing should ideally be removed. If you cannot remove your jewellery, it can be covered with tape to prevent damage to it or to your skin.
- If you are having a local or regional anaesthetic, you can choose to listen to music through your headphones.
- If you are having major surgery, or are incapacitated, you will be brought to theatre on a bed or trolley.
- If you are mobile and/or having more minor surgery, you may be able to walk to the theatre. If you are walking, you will need your dressing gown and slippers.
- Theatre staff will check your identification bracelet, your name and date of birth, and will ask you about other details in your medical records as a final check that you are having the right operation.
- The anaesthetist will attach machines which measure your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Good pain relief is important and some people need more pain relief than others. It is much easier to relieve pain if it is dealt with before it gets bad. Pain relief can be increased, given more often, or given in different combinations.
Occasionally, pain is a warning sign that all is not well, so you should ask for help when you feel pain.
Here are some ways of giving pain relief:
Tablets or Liquids to Swallow
These are used for all types of pain. They take at least half an hour to work. You need to be able to eat, drink and not feel sick for these drugs to work.
These are often needed, and may be intravenous (through your cannula into a vein for a quicker effect) or intramuscular (into your leg or buttock muscle using a needle, taking about 20 minutes to work).
These waxy pellets are put in your back passage (rectum). The pellet dissolves and the drug passes into the body. They are useful if you cannot swallow or if you might vomit.
Patient-controlled Analgesia (PCA)
This is a method using a machine that allows you to control your pain relief yourself. If you would like more information on PCA ask to speak to the anaesthetist responsible for your care.
Local Anaesthetics and Regional Blocks
These types of anaesthesia can be very useful for relieving pain after surgery.
How do I get this?
You will be given anaesthesia if the medical team believe it will be necessary or helpful for your treatment.
Is this insured?
Not all services are covered by health insurance. To find out if you're covered, please check your health insurance before your visit. You can do this on our health insurance Cover Check page, or by contacting your health insurer.
How do I pay?
If you do not have health insurance or your health plan does not cover the full cost, you will need to pay the balance due before your treatment or procedure. You may be able to claim back some fees on your insurance. To pay an excess not covered by your insurance or any other inpatient fees, please visit our payment page. If you have any queries about paying for your care, please contact the finance team in your hospital.