What is anaesthesia? | Association of Anaesthetists

What is anaesthesia?

What is anaesthesia?

Anaesthesia is given to patients so that surgery and other medical procedures can be carried out safely, and without pain.

The word anaesthesia means ‘loss of sensation’. People under anaesthetic will ‘lose’ feelings of pain and other sensations.  

Anaesthesia can be relatively simple, like numbing an area around a tooth during dental treatment, or something more complex, like using powerful drugs to cause unconsciousness.  

The drugs used in anaesthesia work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain. When the drugs wear off, you start to feel normal sensations again.

Read more about what anaesthesia is, and how it’s administered.

What is an anaesthetist?

Anaesthetists are specialist doctors who are responsible for providing anaesthesia to patients for operations and procedures. In addition anaesthetists have a range of practice which extends beyond anaesthesia for surgery to include pain management and intensive care.

Anaesthetists form the largest specialty group of doctors in NHS hospitals. They are doctors who have chosen after qualifying to undertake postgraduate specialist training of at least seven years in anaesthesia, intensive care medicine and pain management.

An anaesthetist cares for you during your operation and will:

  • Discuss types of anaesthesia with you and help you to make choices
  • Discuss the risks of anaesthesia with you
  • Agree a plan with you for your anaesthetic and pain control
  • Be responsible for giving you your anaesthetic and for your wellbeing and safety throughout your procedure
  • Manage any blood transfusions you may need
  • Plan your care, if needed, in the Intensive Care Unit or High Dependency Unit
  • Make your experience as calm and pain free as possible

As well as providing care during operations, anaesthetists are also involved in managing pain relief during childbirth, pain clinics, intensive care, high dependency, and resuscitation services. They are also involved in hospital administration, teaching and training, research and auditing.  Find out more about anaesthetists and how they are trained .

Other resources:

Patient information from a joint website developed by the Association, The Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, Intensive Care Society,  and Royal College of Anaesthetists

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