Modern anaesthesia is extremely safe. Serious risks are very rare and more common side effects are relatively mild. Advances in equipment, monitoring and medications, as well as the standard Australian practice of having an anaesthetist present throughout the anaesthetic all contribute to a high level of safety. There are some risks specific to certain types of anaesthesia. If any of these are relevant to you your anaesthetist will discuss these risks with you before the procedure. If you have any specific concerns about your procedure your anaesthetist will be happy to discuss these with you.

Mild effects can include –

  • Sleepiness and grogginess for a few hours after anaesthesia
  • Sore throat (for some types of general anaesthesia)
  • Bruising of the skin at intravenous sites
  • Nausea (0-30% depending on the type of surgery and anaesthesia) – tell your anaesthetist if you have had problems with anaesthetics in the past. Nausea is much less of a problem than it was twenty or more years ago.
  • Damage to teeth – for some types of general anaesthetic, a tube is passed into you mouth and throat after you are asleep. This provides a clear airway during the operation – there is a small risk (approximately 1 in 700) of causing a chip or dislodgement of a tooth during this procedure. The risk is higher if you have loose teeth or crowns.

More serious side effects are extremely rare but it is important for you to be aware of them –

  • Bleeding and blood transfusion: This is more accurately a risk of the surgery, but the anaesthetist is the doctor who will decide if a transfusion is needed and administer the blood.  The risks and benefits of blood transfusion will be discussed if relevant before your surgery.
  • Awareness: The intention of a general anaesthetic is that you have no awareness or recall of any part of the operation. However it is quite common to remember parts of the anaesthetic preparation (having IV lines, local anaesthetics, going into the operating theatre for the anaesthetic). You may also remember the early part of waking up in recovery. Awareness of any part of the operation can happen but it is rare. It happens to some degree (not necessarily painful or unpleasant) in about 1 in 1000 to 2000 cases.
  • Heart attack, stroke, breathing complications including breathing in of stomach contents into the lungs.
  • Allergic reactions including anaphylactic reactions: Patients under anaesthesia receive many drugs. The chance of having an allergic reaction to one of them is very low, but reactions can be severe.
  • Death: The risk of death caused mainly or entirely by the anaesthetic is less than 1:100 000.