The anaesthetist works with the surgeon to ensure you are pain free during procedures, the risk of treatment is as low as possible and you recover well. The hospital will provide a separate anaesthetic information sheet.

General anaesthetic means you will be unconscious for the procedure. Local anaesthetic and sedation means you will have medication to make you feel pleasantly sedated while remaining awake and medication to make the ear, nose or throat numb. Sedation wears off within a few minutes and local anaesthetic wears off in 4-6 hours.

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists has fact sheets for patients about anaesthesia

Children and anaesthesia

We use play therapy and distraction to keep kids happy and calm during treatment. This involves toys, colouring, music, iPads or DVDs.

We try to disrupt children from their family unit as little as possible during treatment. This means one parent can come into the operating theatre with their child until they are under anaesthetic and then return to support them in the recovery room. A parent stays with the child on the ward until they go home from hospital. During the procedure, you will leave the operating room to have something to eat and drink and the nurse will let you know when to come back to the recovery room.

Calm parents help kids feel calm.  It’s ok not to come into the operating theatre with your child if you feel you don’t want to or won’t cope with it.

Will my child have a needle or gas?

Breathing anaesthetic gas is called “inhalation induction” and having medication injected through a needle into a vein is called “IV induction”. The nurse places an anaesthetic gel patch on your child’s skin one hour before surgery to make the skin numb. Inserting the needle is painless. The anaesthetist decides on the best anaesthetic method for your child after having a discussion with you about your child’s health and past experience with anaesthetic. It’s best to keep a flexible approach.

Will my child have a pre-med?

There are advantages and disadvantages to pre-med or having sedation before the anaesthetic starts. The anaesthetist makes a decision based on your child’s reaction to being in hospital, their past experience with sedation and anaesthetics, your preferences and feedback from the nurses looking after your child.

No phones or photos

Photography and smart phones are not permitted in the operating room and recovery room. This is to protect the privacy of your child and the other patients receiving treatment and the privacy of the staff.

The Royal Children’s Hospital has more information about children and surgery

Emergence delirium

Emergence delirium happens in the recovery room after surgery and usually lasts 10-30 minutes in young children. It is a dissociated mental state in which the child is inconsolable, irritable, uncooperative, and may be thrashing, crying, moaning, or incoherent. Parents sometimes describes this as “the lights are on but no one is home”.  It happens to 8 out of 10 kids and is more common in younger children and infants. 

Emergence delirium spontaneously improves within 30 minutes. No specific treatment is needed. Nurses will check that pain relief is working and your child’s oxygen levels, blood pressure and heart rate are ok. Comfort from parents and nurses helps keep children safe until the delirium passes.

Is anaesthesia safe?


Anaesthesia is generally safe provided you are fit and well on the day of surgery.

The chance of a serious complication from anaesthesia (like an allergic reaction) in Australia is very low. The chance of dying from anaesthesia is 1:100,000. This means for every 100,000 people having an operation, there is one death.

Some people have health problems that make anaesthesia less safe. Your surgeon, GP and anaesthetist aim to improve your health as much as possible before surgery to improve the safety of the anaesthetic.  Sometimes an operation is cancelled if the risk is too high. For example, if you are suddenly unwell with fever, trouble breathing or cough or if you have an unstable health problem.

Tell your anaesthetist or surgeon if you have been unwell before surgery or there has been a change in your medications.

Infants and children

Research has shown some impacts on brain development from anaesthetic in animals. 3 large research studies in human infants and children haven’t shown problems with brain development in children. You can read about the research here.

To limit the impact of surgery on infants and children we can

  • only consider surgery if the outcome will be clearly better than not having surgery
  • delay surgery, if it’s safe to delay, until a child is older, for example over 3 years of age
  • aim for a short (less than 4 hours), effective anaesthetic with adequate pain relief and limit how many operations are needed over time.
  • include parents, play, distraction, reassurance, good pain relief, and the right mix of anaesthetic drugs to reduce anxiety and distress around the time of surgery

What is the difference between a specialist anaesthetist and a GP anaesthetist?

Both are doctors who can provide anaesthetic services.

A specialist anaesthetist has completed 6 or more years of post medical school training in anaesthesia. Specialist anaesthetists are members of the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). They are skilled in providing anaesthetic services for all patients including those with complex health problems and children.


A GP anaesthetist is a general practitioner who has completed a 12 month diploma in anaesthesia, after completing post medical school training in general practice. GP anaesthetists are members of the Royal Australasian College of General Practice (RACGP). They are skilled in providing anaesthetic services for a select group of patients and procedures.