Anaesthesia and preparing for surgery

Anaesthetists are specialist doctors. They enable our talented surgeons to perform complex surgeries

Australian doctors specialise in anaesthesia and pain medicine. Anaesthesia is not just sleep, and anaesthetists are highly trained. They have completed at least eight to ten years of post-graduate training on top of their time at medical school. They also have extensive continuing education requirements throughout their careers.  

Our anaesthetists are Fellows of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. They 

  • Supply world class skills in anaesthesia and perioperative medicine 

  • undertake research in perioperative anaesthesia  

  • work close with our surgeons and other multi-disciplinary teams 

We supply the best anaesthesia care possible based on current evidence. This optimises your outcomes on your cancer journey. 

Anaesthetists are perioperative experts and serve a significant role around the time of surgery. Anaesthetists improve patients’ medical conditions before, during and after surgery. They use general and regional anaesthetic techniques. These reduce inflammation and the surgical stress response. This in turn helps 

  • reduce the risk of postoperative complications such as heart attack, stroke, blood clots and lung problems.  

  • facilitates rapid recovery from surgery  

  • reduces postoperative pain. 

Before surgery 

Anaesthetists give patients the best chance for a good outcome from surgery. Our Pre-Anaesthetic Clinic (PAC) may refer patients for medical assessment and blood tests. This allows for risk assessment and optimisation before major surgery.   

Having major surgery is a stressful time for your body. Our Anaesthetists lead a multidisciplinary team that will help ensure you are ‘fit for surgery.' This team will include anaesthetists, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists. 

We may refer some high-risk patients for one or more services before their surgery. These include: 

  • Specialist Pain Clinic 

  • exercise 

  • nutrition 

  • quit smoking programs. 

  • During surgery 

Anaesthetists deliver critical care keeping patients comfortable, unaware, stable and safe during surgery. They focus on: 

  • Supplying continual medical assessment of patients. They can diagnose medical problems that may occur during surgery. They can also manage intra-operative emergencies that may arise. 

  • Monitoring and controlling patients' bodies. This includes their  

  • heart rate 

  • heart rhythm 

  • breathing 

  • blood pressure 

  • body temperature  

  • and fluid balance 

  • depth of anaesthesia – that is, how unconscious you are 

  • Managing patients’ pain and level of consciousness. After surgery 

Anaesthetists and surgeons have developed Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) programs. These optimise recovery time from surgery. This includes: 

  • Acute pain management 

  • Monitoring respiratory and cardiovascular system function 

  • Preventing blood clots 

  • Minimising risk of nausea and vomiting 

  • Managing fluid and electrolyte balance 

  • Getting out of bed as soon as possible after your operation 

How to prepare for anaesthesia and surgery 

Weeks before your surgery 

Complete and return the Heath Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) 

This form supplies important information for us. It helps us prepare you for your anaesthetic and to keep you safe. 

Bring copies of past heart-related tests 

For example, echocardiograms, stress tests, pacemaker insertions, angiograms, and so on. This can include details of your heart, lung or other specialists who may have seen in the past. 

Stop smoking 

You should take immediate steps to quit and remain smoke-free. 

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to recover from surgery. It reduces the risks of wound infection, pneumonia and a heart attack. 

Get regular exercise 

Even a daily, rigorous walk to the park will help. 

Continue using prescribed medications unless your anaesthetist or surgeon recommends against it 

Bring all your regular medications to the hospital on the day of surgery. There are some medications which we may ask you to stop taking before your surgery. If this is important to you, we will instruct you on this. Otherwise take all your regular medications on the day of surgery with a sip of water. Stop all natural or herbal supplements two weeks before surgery. 

Some supplements can thin your blood, causing increased risk of bleeding or interacting unpredictably with other medications. 

Days before your anaesthesia and surgery 

If you are not staying overnight in hospital, plan for a responsible adult known to you to take you home 

We also recommend that you have someone stay with you during the first 24 hours. We will not allow you to leave alone or drive yourself home. If you do not have someone, please let us know and we can help with arrangements.  

Do not make important decisions for the first 24 hours after your anaesthetic.  

You may have local anaesthesia with no sedation. In such a case it may be possible to go home without someone going with you. 

Leave your jewellery and valuables at home 

Bring your dentures or dental appliances with you  

These help to maintain the shape of your mouth prior to anaesthesia commencing. 

Wear loose fitting clothing 

Wear clothes that are easy to put on and will fit over surgical dressings. 

Stay warm on the day of surgery 

Observe fasting guidelines 

No food or drink other than water for SIX hours before your surgery.  

You may have water up to TWO hours before your surgery. 

An empty stomach helps prevent regurgitation of stomach contents under anaesthesia. 

What happens during anaesthesia

  1. Should surgery need general anaesthetic we'll administer it via a cannula in your arm. This process places you in a controlled state of unconsciousness for surgery. 

  2. During your operation, we administer medications and fluids. These keep you unconscious, provide pain relief and maintain your body functions. They also help with minimising the risk of postoperative issues such as nausea, pain and inflammation. Your anaesthetist is always present – they use advanced technology to watch your body's functions and ensure you remain safe 

  3. At the end of the operation, we will transfer you to the recovery room where you will continue to monitor you until you wake up further from your surgery.  

  4. We will then move you to the ward, intensive care unit or discharge you to home depending on your procedure.  

  5. Some surgical procedures result in pain or discomfort. This may mean that we discharge you with analgesia or other medication such as anti-nausea drugs 

Risks and complications of anaesthesia 

Find out more about the risks and complications.

Referral information 

Your specialist will refer you, if needed, to either 




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