The type of anaesthesia you will receive will depend on the nature and duration of your procedure, your general medical condition, your preference as well as those of your anaesthetist and surgeon.
You are put into a state of unconsciousness for the duration of the operation. This is usually achieved by injecting drugs through a cannula placed in a vein and maintained with intravenous drugs or a mixture of gases which you will breathe. While you remain unaware of what is happening around you, the anaesthetist monitors your condition closely and constantly adjusts the level of anaesthesia. You will often be asked to breathe oxygen through a mask just before your anaesthesia starts.
A nerve block numbs the part of the body where the surgeon operates and may avoid the need for general anaesthesia and will also provide you with better pain relief after your procedure. Examples of regional anaesthesia include epidurals for labour, spinal anaesthesia for caesarean section and ‘eye blocks’ for cataracts.
A local anaesthetic drug is injected at the site of the surgery to cause numbness. You will be awake or sedated and feel no pain. An obvious example of local anaesthesia is numbing an area of skin before having a cut stitched.
The anaesthetist administers drugs to make you relaxed and drowsy. This is sometimes called ‘twilight sleep’ or ‘intravenous sedation’ and may be used for some eye surgery, some plastic surgery and for some endoscopy procedures. Recall of events is possible with ‘sedation’ but you are comfortable. Please discuss your preference with your anaesthetist.
For further information visit the Australian Society of Anesthetists information page on the topic.