Southern DHB Anaesthesia - Otago
What is Anaesthesia?
You are given an anaesthetic when you have surgery so that you don’t feel pain during the operation. There are different types of anaesthesia and the type you receive will depend on the type of surgery you are having and how long it will take.
Your anaesthetic will be given to you by a specialist doctor called an anaesthetist.
Anaesthesia care falls into three parts: pre-operative visit, care during surgery and postoperative care in the recovery room.
The anaesthetist will visit the patient on the morning of surgery or the night before. It is their job to assess the patient's suitability for an anaesthetic. They will ask questions on the following:
- general health
- previous medical history
- previous anaesthetics received
- smoking habits
- previous heart problems.
The ideal candidate for anaesthesia is within normal weight range, is well oxygenated, has a normal and regular heartbeat and is conscious.
A physical examination of your heart and lungs will be carried out. Your neck will be checked for shape and your mouth for loose teeth or caps. These are checked because if a breathing tube is to be inserted, it can sometimes be difficult to insert depending on the shape of the neck and mouth and also to prevent damage to teeth in the process.
The anaesthetist may prescribe a pre-med, which is a medication taken prior to surgery, designed to aid in relaxation and help keep the patient calm.
Care During Surgery
During the operation the anaesthetist's main roles are as follows:
- to prevent pain - achieved by administration of pain relief agents appropriate for you and for the extent and duration of the operation
- to monitor oxygenation - this means ensuring that all vital organs are being adequately supplied with oxygen. This is assessed by skin colour, heart rate and your level of consciousness
- to monitor ventilation - assessed by the respiratory rate, volume of each breath and the inhaled and exhaled carbon dioxide concentrations. The anaesthetic gas and oxygen are delivered together either via a mask or breathing tube. If a mask is used the patient usually breathes on their own. If a tube is used the patient may breathe on their own or be mechanically ventilated using an artificial ventilator
- to monitor circulation - during the operation, intravenous fluids and/or blood products are administered if necessary. Circulation is assessed by blood pressure, urine output and skin temperature.
When your operation is over, you will be taken to a special recovery area where your condition will be monitored as you wake up from the anaesthetic.