Anaesthesia FAQs


The information on this page is intended as a quick guide for people undergoing surgery with sedation or anaesthesia.

Suggested questions to ask your anaesthetist

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I wake up during surgery?

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 assess you and tailor the anaesthetic to balance the risks to the type and length of operation.

What about my health supplements?

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.

Why does my health insurance not cover my full anaesthesia fee?

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.

Will I be permanently brain damaged?

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.

Should I sit an exam after an anaesthetic

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.

Am I likely to be confused after my operation

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.

I don’t have any one at home with me is it appropriate for me to have day surgery?

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 famiily member or friend to stay with you. Otherwise you are best to stay overnight in hospital.

Why has the hospital sent me an anaesthetic bill?

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.

What is the anaesthetist’s bill based on?

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.

Are there different types of anaesthesia?

Yes there are four main types: general anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia, local anaesthesia and sedation/monitored care. You can find out more about these in the form Your Anaesthetic.

Should I stop smoking beforehand?

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.

Are recreational drugs a risk to my anaesthetic?

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.

I have a cold - can my operation go ahead?

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.

Will I dream during my anaesthetic?

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.

Should I leave my dentures at home?

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.

Should I tell my child about their anaesthetic?

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.

What should I do if I feel very sick after going home from my operation?

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

What if my pain has increased to intolerable levels at home?

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.