To minimise risks and plan the most suitable anaesthetic for you, your anaesthetist needs to know about your health and level of fitness. For example, do you get short of breath doing normal activities such as gentle walking, showering, or going up a flight of stairs? They will also need to establish any relevant medical history, including:
- Breathing problems like asthma or bronchitis
- Heart conditions like hypertension, angina, palpitations or blackouts
- Neck or back problems, like sciatica
- Nerve problems, like strokes
- Gland problems like diabetes or thyroid disease
- Severe reflux, indigestion or ulcer problems
- Recent illnesses such as a bad cold or flu
Other important information includes:
- What medication(s) you take
- Teeth – any dentures, caps, crowns, bridges, plates or loose teeth
- Any allergies or bad reactions to medication
- Whether you have had any problems in the past with anaesthesia or surgery
You can do some things to make your anaesthetic procedure safer too:
- Try to get as fit as you can – even a small increase fitness is great; try adding a regular walk to your day
- Try to stop smoking, or at least cut down, preferably four to six weeks before your surgery
- Cut down your alcohol intake
- Make sure you follow the fasting guidelines
It is very important to follow the fasting guidelines you have been given, as this will minimise the risk from food or fluid in your stomach being inhaled into your lungs while you are undergoing your surgery. If you do not follow these guidelines your procedure may be postponed or even cancelled.
As a general rule you should take your usual medications on the day of surgery, even though you may be fasting. It is OK to have a small glass of water to help you swallow them. This is particularly important for blood pressure medications.
Blood thinning medication
If you take blood-thinning medication, you should contact your surgeon as these may need to be stopped up to 10 days prior to your surgery.
For patients with diabetes who take insulin, you will need to contact your specialist or the anaesthetist here at BAS for specific advice. You should not take tablets for diabetes on the day of surgery.
Seeing your anaesthetist before surgery
Your anaesthetist will see you before your procedure. For smaller and medium sized procedures your anaesthetist will see you on the day of the procedure. They will see you in the admissions area of the hospital, or in the anaesthetic room in the operating theatre. They will discuss any previous surgical operation and medical issues you might have. They will plan the type of anaesthetic and explain the risks and alternatives.
For most major operations, or if you have more serious medical issues, the anaesthetist will be notified by the surgeon or admissions office, and may make an appointment to see you in the weeks before the operation. This gives you more time to discuss the anaesthetic and plan any extra tests that might be needed prior to the operation. Sometimes this can be done by a phone consultation if time is short or if you are unable to visit our consulting rooms in person. If you have any questions about your anaesthetic feel free to ask.