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Your anaesthetic may start in the anaesthetic room or in the operating theatre.

The anaesthetist and/or assistant 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. The needle is then removed, leaving the thin plastic tube in place. Both fluids and drugs are given through this plastic tube.


Local and regional anaesthetics

Further information is available in separate information booklets on spinal anaesthetics.

  • Your anaesthetist will ask you to keep still while the injections are given.
  • You may notice a warm tingling feeling as the anaesthetic begins to take effect.
  • Your operation will only go ahead when you and your anaesthetist are sure that the area is numb.
  • If you are not having sedation you will remain alert and aware of your surroundings. A screen shields the operating site, so you will not see the operation unless you want to.
  • Your anaesthetist is always near to you and you can speak to him or her whenever you want to.


General anaesthetics

There are two ways of starting a general anaesthetic.

  • Anaesthetic drugs may be injected into a vein through the cannula (this is generally used for adults);
  • You can breathe anaesthetic gases and oxygen through a mask, which you may hold if you prefer.


With both methods, oxygen is often given through a mask before starting the anaesthetic to improve oxygen reserves.

Once you are unconscious, an anaesthetist stays with you at all times and continues to give you drugs to keep you anaesthetised.

As soon as the operation is finished, the drugs will be stopped or reversed so that you regain consciousness.