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Anaesthesia FAQs

Suggested questions to ask your anaesthetist

This page is intended as a quick guide for people undergoing surgery with sedation or anaesthesia. 

The questions listed are examples only. They are useful reminders that are also contained, along with other information, in the Society’s brochure Your Anaesthetic which your Anaesthetist will talk to you about when you meet to discuss your surgery. 

Please tell your Anaesthetist about your medical history and any problems that might affect your surgery. This will help the doctor when planning your surgery. This health information is private to you and your doctor. 

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights applies to all providers of health and disability services. The Code sets out 10 rights, including the right to be treated with respect, to be free from discrimination or exploitation, the right to dignity and independence, to services of an appropriate standard, to give informed consent, and to complain. The New Zealand Medical Association page recommends a process for feedback. 

Anaesthesia - NZSA Private Practice Network anaesthesia faqs

Preparing for your surgey

Yes, there are four main types: general anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia, local anaesthesia, and sedation/monitored care. You can find resources on Anaesthesia here. 

This is very unlikely. In low-risk surgery and anaesthesia the risk of waking during the operation is around 1 in 40,000. 

Your Anaesthetist stays with you the whole time during the procedure and keeps giving you anaesthetic drugs until the Surgeon has finished the operation. 

However, everyone needs different amounts of these drugs to ensure they are pain free and fully anaesthetised. Your Anaesthetist will be constantly assessing you and tailor the anaesthetic to balance the risks to the type and length of operation. 

Always tell your Anaesthetist about any vitamins, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies or supplements you are taking, as many of these interact with conventional drugs and anaesthetics. As a rule of thumb do not take non-prescribed medications for the week before surgery unless they have been discussed with your Anaesthetist. 

Different insurance policies have differing levels of cover. In generally only premium policies cover the entire costs of an operation. Usually there is a small difference between actual costs and those which are covered. You should discuss this with your Anaesthetist and your insurance company. 

Most anaesthesia drugs have no long-term adverse effects. Unless there is a serious complication there is little chance of permanent brain injury. However infrequently, serious complications can occur. Your Anaesthetist will talk about the level of risk for you if you decide to have surgery. 

Yes. Smoking is a major health hazard and can result in serious health issues. For anaesthesia it can result in an increased risk of breathing complications. Ideally you should stop smoking six weeks prior to surgery. 

Yes. You must inform your Anaesthetist of any recreational drugs you take. These may result in some serious drug interactions which the Anaesthetist needs to avoid. Drugs such as ‘P’ are a major risk and may result in fatal reactions. You should not take any recreational drugs for at least one week before surgery and must always inform your Anaesthetist when they were last taken. 

No, bring your dentures with you. Generally, anaesthetists prefer that you leave you dentures in place when they send you off to “sleep”. If required, they will take them out. 

If you have a partial plate the anaesthetist may prefer it to be left in your locker or with someone for safe keeping prior to your procedure. Please check with your Anaesthetist. 

Not unless the procedure is under local anaesthesia. Postoperative pain or nausea and small but reversible changes in memory and mental function mean you must have someone with you. Try to arrange for a family member or friend to stay with you. Otherwise, you are best to stay overnight in hospital. 

Yes, children need to know what to expect and to know that they can trust their parents. Surprises cause distress and anxiety. You should let them know what is likely to happen throughout the procedure. 

Anaesthesia can be given at all stages of pregnancy if required in an emergency.  For planned procedures, the timing of an operation in pregnancy will depend on many things, including the urgency of the procedure (and potential side effects of delay), stage of pregnancy, and anaesthetic considerations of the pregnant person.  A team will usually be involved including surgeons, anaesthetists, and obstetricians.

During the first trimester there is a small risk to the developing foetus of teratogenicity, and later in pregnancy the risk becomes higher for the pregnant person.  The second trimester is preferred for any surgery which cannot be deferred. If you do need to have an anaesthetic when you’re pregnant, and you’re beyond 24 weeks, then your baby will be monitored before and after, and sometimes during – depending on the length of the operation.

Anaesthetists are highly trained specialist doctors, who are skilled at keeping you, and your baby safe if you do need a General Anaesthetic when pregnant. For more information on pregnancy and anaesthesia, visit our Obstetrics Information for Whānau page.

That will depend on the procedure and the nature of your cold. If you have chest symptoms, for example a productive cough, your procedure should be delayed. Similarly, if you have had muscle aches and pains associated with your cold, surgery would be delayed. Please advise the hospital if you have a cold as they may require more information from you about symptoms to decide if the procedure will go ahead. 


During and after your surgery

You should contact the hospital initially and they may advise you to come back or may be able to organise some medication for you. 

If it is very bad you may need to get an ambulance to the hospital as it may be a complication of surgery. If you have had your procedure privately you should call your surgeon for advice. 

In many private hospitals the hospital owns the anaesthesia machine and supplies the drugs that the Anaesthetist uses to give your anaesthetic. An invoice for anaesthesia costs is to cover machine and drug costs. 

The anaesthesia bill is usually a charge for the Anaesthetist’s time and skill in the same manner as a surgeon’s bill. This will be based on time spent in the operating room, as well as preoperative and postoperative care and the risks associated with the procedure. 

No. You should try to organise your surgery to occur after any examination or other intellectual event. There is some evidence of temporary changes in memory and mental function. 

No. Anaesthesia is a drug-induced unconsciousness; it is not normal sleep. Under anaesthesia you will have no indication of the passing of time or awareness of any events. 

In the elderly confusion is not uncommon although it is not usually permanent. For the elderly a change in environment and the events associated with surgery can result in confusion. Ideally, the elderly should get back to their own homes where familiarity will help reduce any confusion. 

Further Resources

Just because tests and treatments are available, doesn’t mean we should always use them. Tests, treatments, and procedures have side-effects, and some may even cause harm.  For example, CT scans and x-rays expose you to radiation; overuse of antibiotics leads to them becoming less effective; a false positive test may lead to painful and stressful further investigation. 

 In this section you will find lists and questions relating to specific problems and concerns – and the questions to ask before agreeing to a medical intervention or test. 

As each situation is unique, health care professionals and patients should have a conversation to work out an appropriate health care plan together. 

Click to find out more

An advance care plan is a way of recording what a person wants in relation to all current and future care. This can include future medical treatments and procedures, in an event where a person loses their capacity to make their own decisions. 

Before surgery a member of your medical team may ask whether you have an ACP. It could be used in the event of heart failure during surgery and enables the medical team and the family to feel safe in the knowledge that they are carrying out your wishes. 

Click here for resources on ACPs.