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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Find out more about anaesthesia

If you are having an anaesthetic for an operation or a procedure, it will be one (or a combination of more than one) of the following types: general, regional or local anaesthesia.

  • General anaesthesia means being made completely unaware of anything during the operation. It is a state of controlled unconsciousness. It is necessary for some sorts of surgery where regional or local anaesthesia would not be sufficient.
  • Regional anaesthesia involves making a part of the body numb by injecting local anaesthetic around a nerve or a bunch of nerves. Examples of regional anaesthetics include epidurals for labour, 'eye blocks' for cataract surgery and arm nerve blocks for surgery on the hand and arm. Patients having regional anaesthesia are awake and know what is going on, but feel no pain during the procedure or operation. Some people prefer to have sedation to help them feel relaxed in an unusual environment, but this is not necessary to be pain-free.
  • Local anaesthesia means the injection of local anaesthetic at the site of the operation to make a small area numb and is usually used for minor operations, given by the surgeon rather than an anaesthetist.

Deciding which sort of anaesthetic is best will be done by the anaesthetist after consultation with yourself, taking into account the nature of the operation and any medical problems you have. The aim is to choose the safest option with the quickest and smoothest recovery.

We aim to see all patients before their operation in order to discuss the anaesthetic and answer any questions which you may have. Most of the time this will happen on the day of surgery, but we may need to see you beforehand if there are tests or complex issues to talk about. Nurses from the pre-operative clinic will go through a screening questionnaire with you some days before your operation is scheduled in order to work out whether you need to see an anaesthetist in advance.

Your surgery may be suitable for an 'enhanced recovery' pathway; to find out more, please visit:

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Further information

For general information about anaesthetics (and complications or risks of anaesthetics):

For information about anaesthesia for specific procedures or groups of patients:

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