Treatments and tests

Anaesthesia - benefits and risks

Benefits of anaesthesia

Anaesthesia ensures your surgery can be performed without pain.This may be a general anaesthetic, where you will be unconscious, or local anaesthetic, where you remain awake.

Modern anaesthesia is about more than just stopping you feeling pain. Your anaesthetist watches and supports your important body functions, for example breathing.

High-tech equipment is used to make sure you are kept safe through your operation and your anaesthetist will choose from a range of methods to suit your needs. This ensures your surgeon will get the best results.

During your operation your anaesthetist will look after any health problems you may have, for example diabetes, and give you any necessary drugs, such as antibiotics.

If you require a blood transfusion your anaesthetist will give you this and generally support you while your surgeon stops the bleeding. In the event of unexpected problems such as an asthma attack or heart attack, your anaesthetist will start treatment straight away.

Risks of anaesthesia

There are some risks with having an anaesthetic.

Common side effects include:

  • sore throat
  • skin bruising
  • feeling sick.
  • Less common side effects include:
  • damage to teeth
  • a hoarse voice
  • allergic reactions to drugs
  • damage to nerves
  • asthma attacks.
  • There is a very low risk of more serious problems such as:
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • kidney or lung damage
  • becoming aware (waking up) during surgery.

On rare occasions, paralysis or death could occur. The chance of these and other serious problems is really low in most people. The risk depends on the type of operation you are having and on other health problems you have.

When you meet your anaesthetist before your operation, you are strongly urged to ask any questions you have about anaesthesia, including the risks.

Balancing the benefits and risks

All anaesthetics are given either by a doctor who has specialised in anaesthesia, or by a supervised doctor who is training to be a specialist.

In almost all cases, the benefits of surgery are much greater than the risks of anaesthesia. However, it is your right to be informed about treatments you receive and in the end, it is you who must decide which treatments you wish to have.

Costs of anaesthesia

For an Australian patient in a public hospital in Western Australia:

  • public patient – no cost to you unless advised otherwise.
  • private patient – costs can be claimed through Medicare and your health insurance provider.

If you are a patient in a private hospital or private imaging site in Western Australia, you should ask your doctor or the staff where you are having your test done about any costs.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222


Royal Perth Hospital

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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