Patient Information

Patient Information

This information leaflet gives basic information to help you prepare for your anaesthetic.
It is provided by the College of Anaesthetists of Ireland and has been written by patients, patient representatives and anaesthetists, working in partnership.
You can find more information in other leaflets in the series.
Please refer to our links section.

Types of Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain and other sensations.
It can be given in various ways and does not always make you unconscious.

Local anaesthesia involves injections which numb a small part of your body. You stay conscious but free from pain.

Regional anaesthesia involves injections which numb a larger or deeper part of the body. You stay conscious but free from pain.

General anaesthesia gives a state of controlled unconsciousness. It is essential for some operations. You are unconscious and feel nothing.


Anaesthetists are doctors with specialist training who:

  • Discuss types of anaesthesia with you and find out what you would like, helping you to make choices
  • Discuss the risks of anaesthesia with you
  • Agree a plan with you for your anaesthetic and pain control
  • Are responsible for giving your anaesthetic and for your wellbeing and safety throughout your surgery
  • Manage any blood transfusions you may need
  • Plan your care, if needed, in the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Make your experience as calm and pain free as possible

Before Coming to Hospital

Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for your operation:

  • If you smoke, giving up for several weeks before the operation reduces the risk of breathing problems and makes your anaesthetic safer. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help.
  • If you are very overweight, reducing your weight will reduce many of the risks of having an anaesthetic.
  • If you have loose teeth or crowns, treatment from your dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth if the anaesthetist needs to put a tube in your throat to help you breathe.
  • If you have a long-standing medical problem such as diabetes, asthma or bronchitis, thyroid problems, heart problems or high blood pressure (hypertension) you should ask your GP if you need a check-up.

Before your Anaesthetic

You will be asked some questions to check your health before your operation. This may be at a pre-assessment clinic, by filling in a questionnaire, by talking to doctors on the ward, or when you meet your anaesthetist.
It is important for you to bring a list of the following: 

  • All the pills, medicines, herbal remedies or supplements you are taking, both prescribed and those that you have
  • Purchased over the counter
  • Any allergies you may have.

On The Day Of Your Operation

Your Anaesthetist will meet you before your operation and will discuss the following: 

  • Ask you about your health
  • Discuss with you which types of anaesthetic can be used
  • Discuss with you the benefits, risks and your preferences
  • Decide with you which anaesthetic would be best for you
  • Decide for you, if you would prefer that.

Nothing will happen to you until you understand and agree with what has been planned for you. You have the right to refuse if you do not want the treatment suggested or if you want more information or more time to decide.

The Choice of Anaesthetic Will Depends on:

  • Your operation
  • Your answers to the questions you have been asked
  • Your physical condition
  • Your preferences and the reasons for them
  • Your anaesthetist’s recommendations for you and the reasons for them
  • The equipment, staff and other resources at your hospital.

Premedication (a ‘premed’) is the name for drugs which are given before some anaesthetics. Some premeds prepare your body for the anaesthetic, others help you to relax. They may make you more drowsy after the operation.

If you want to go home on the same day, this may be delayed. If you think a premed would help you, ask your anaesthetist.
A needle may be used to start your anaesthetic.

If this worries you, you can ask to have a local anaesthetic cream put on your arm to numb the skin before you leave the ward. The ward nurses should be able to do this.

If you are having a local or regional anaesthetic, you will also need to decide whether you would prefer to:

  • Be fully alert
  • Be relaxed and sleepy (sedation)
  • Have a general anaesthetic as well.

Sedation is the use of small amounts of anaesthetic or similar drugs to produce a ‘sleepy-like’ state.

When You Are Called For Your Operation

  • A member of staff will go with you to the theatre.
  • A relative or friend may be able to go with you to the anaesthetic room. A parent will normally go with a child.
  • You can wear your glasses, hearing aids and dentures until you are in the anaesthetic room. If you are having a local or regional anaesthetic, you may keep them on.
  • Jewellery and decorative piercing should ideally be removed. If you cannot remove your jewellery, it can be covered with tape to prevent damage to it or to your skin.
  • If you are having a local or regional anaesthetic, you can take a personal CD or MP3 player with you to listen to music through your headphones.
  • Most people will be brought to theatre on a bed or trolley.
  • You may be able to walk. If you are walking, you will need your dressing gown and slippers.
  • Theatre staff will check your identification bracelet, your name and date of birth, and will ask you about other details in your medical records as a final check that you are having the right operation.
  • The operating department (‘theatres’) Your anaesthetic may start in the anaesthetic room or in the operating theatre.
  • The anaesthetist will attach machines which measure your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.
  • For many anaesthetics, including some types of local anaesthetic, a needle is used to put a cannula (thin plastic tube) into a vein in the back of your hand or arm.