An anaesthetic stops you from feeling pain during an operation, procedure or treatment.

Local anaesthetic uses an injection to numb a part of your body. You stay awake but do not feel pain.

Regional anaesthetic uses an injection to numb a larger part of your body (such as an arm or leg). You stay awake but do not feel pain.

General anaesthetic gives a state of controlled unconsciousness. This is like being asleep and you do not feel pain.

Sometimes, you might have sedation for your operation, procedure or treatment. This is when you are given a medicine to make you feel sleepy and relaxed.

Your anaesthetist

A specially trained doctor called an anaesthetist gives you an anaesthetic.

The anaesthetist is responsible for your wellbeing and safety during your operation or treatment. They work with you to plan the type of anaesthetic and pain control that is most suitable for you.

You meet the anaesthetist before your operation, except with some minor procedures. They might ask you some questions about your health.

You can tell the anaesthetist if you have any concerns or questions.

Preparing for an anaesthetic

It’s important you follow our instructions before having an anaesthetic. This can include when to stop eating and drinking.

If you do not follow these instructions, your surgery or procedure might be cancelled.

Read more about how to prepare.

After an anaesthetic

If you have a general anaesthetic, regional anaesthetic or sedation, you need to follow our safety advice after you leave hospital. This is because the effects can take some time to wear off completely.

Read about instructions after an anaesthetic.

Risks of having an anaesthetic

Today, it is very safe to have an anaesthetic. Serious problems are uncommon.

Your anaesthetist uses special equipment to monitor you closely throughout your operation. However, there are still risks involved and some people might have side effects or complications.

Read more about possible side effects and complications.

Resource number: 2737/VER5
Last reviewed: June 2023
Next review: June 2026

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Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about having an anaesthetic, please contact the team caring for you.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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