New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
HEALTH & FAMILY
WHAT TO ASK IF YOU’RE GOING UNDER THE KNIFE
If you’re having surgery involving general anaesthetic, the anaesthetist will visit you beforehand to discuss what’s involved and get some information from you about your health. It’s important to answer all their questions about things such as any medication or supplements you take because this can affect your treatment. It is also a good idea to have access to details about your medical history in case they prove to be important.
You may also want to write out a list of questions about having the surgery and having an anaesthetic in particular. Here are some often-asked examples:
HOW DO ANAESTHETICS WORK?
General anaesthetics induce unconsciousness with drugs that interrupt the nerve signals in your brain and body, preventing your brain from processing pain and remembering what happened during the operation.
A specially trained doctor called an anaesthetist puts you to sleep using a combination of drugs administered through an IV line in your arm or hand. You might also breathe
in gas through
a mask. You should fall asleep quickly. Once asleep, they may insert a tube in your mouth down to your windpipe to make sure you get enough oxygen.
During the procedure, your breathing, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and uid levels will be monitored. Your medication levels will be checked and more medication or gas given, if necessary, to make sure you stay asleep and free of pain.
Once the operation is over, the anaesthesia will be stopped and you will wake up, with no memory of what happened to you while you were under.
WHY CAN’T I EAT OR DRINK BEFORE HAVING A GENERAL ANAESTHETIC?
This is due to the concern that you might regurgitate the contents of your stomach into your mouth and throat while you are under anaesthetic. Normally you would be able to cough or vomit these contents out, but when you are sedated,
your body loses the ability to do this. As a result, this food can be sucked into your lungs, causing a lung injury that can have serious consequences and in severe cases, can even be fatal.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE ME TO GET OVER THE EFFECTS?
Most people wake up within a short time of going from the operating theatre to the recovery room, but can be groggy for several hours afterwards. It can take up to a week for the drugs to be cleared from your system, but most people don’t notice any effects from them after about 24 hours.
CAN I HAVE AN ANAESTHETIC IF I HAVE A COLD?