Anaesthesia is a word derived from the greek which literally translated means lack of feeling. More accurately, it describes both having no feeling in the literal sense and no emotion; not caring. This is quite an accurate description of the state induced during an operation as simply being unconscious (“asleep”) is not necessarily what it is about. There are numerous other ways to have an operation and regardless of what anaesthetic option is chosen by your anaesthesia provider, the part of your body that will be operated on will be made to have no feeling (see regional anaesthesia) and you will be made calm and uncaring about your surroundings.

Medical Conditions

Any patient requiring a general anaesthetic for a procedure or operation.

Specialty Areas of Interest

  • Acute and chronic pain management
  • Regional anaesthesia
  • Difficult airway management
  • Paediatric anaesthesia

Anaesthetists often specialise to become particularly expert in one field of anaesthetics – for example giving anaesthetics for brain operations, or eye or ENT operations.

Associated Tests

Anaesthetists may order some tests before doing an anaesthtic on a particular patient.
Common examples include:


Anaesthestists use various medications to anaesthetise patients. These may include agents that relieve pain and anxiety, agents that cause unconsciousness (put a patient to sleep) and agents that cause paralysis.
Agents may be given intravenously or inhaled. Regional anaesthesia involves the administration of local anaesthetics to nerves – either the spinal cord or peripheral nerves. Distal tissues whose sensation if provided by that “numbed” nerve then do not experience pain.

As well as giving medications anaesthetists must provide life support for a patient whilst they are asleep. This usually entails protecting their airway (by intubating them) and breathing for them (putting them on a ventilator.)

  • Epidural
  • Spinal anaesthetic
  • Peripheral nerve block
  • General anaesthetic
  • Inhalational induction

What to expect


If you are seen by your anaesthetist prior to your operation they will ask questions to give them a picture of how complicated your anaesthetic may be. This will depend on the procedure you are having done as well as any anatomical abnormality you may have, other medical problems and previous anaesthetic difficulties you have suffered. It is important they know about family history particularly problems with anaesthetics as well.


Your examination will be tailored to you. Your anaesthetist must decide on the best way to ensure you are comfortable through your procedure and the approach will vary from person to person. They usually begin by assessing you for any underlying medical condition they may not know about – listening to your heart and lungs. They then proceed to determine your suitability for intubation by assessing your mouth, neck and airway.

Training and Qualifications

Entry into anaesthetic training is usually very competitive. Once selected 5 years of specialty training follows. Trainees work and operate under the supervision of a consultant / specialist anaesthetist. Registrars must sit examinations, perform many supervised anaesthetics and conduct research before eventually reaching specialty level.


* Anesthesia – American spelling for Anaesthesia.
Anesthetics – American spelling for Anaesthetics.
Anesthesiologist – American term (and spelling) for Anaesthetist.


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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

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