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Type of Anaesthetic

Anaesthetics are a bit of a mystery to most people - as long as you're asleep all the way through the operation and wake up ok at the end, you might not want to know any more details! 

First of all - anaesthetics are incredibly safe these days - there are some small risks which you can find here on the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) website.

Some things can make a big difference to pain after surgery and the likelihood of it being persistent.

  • Multimodal analgesia; this means using paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and sometimes medicines for nerve pain as well as morphine type drugs. 

  • Regional anaesthesia - where local anaesthetics are used to numb the area to be operated on. These can be spinal or epidural injections or nerve blocks to your arms, legs or the nerves that go to your chest or stomach. These can last from about 3 hours to more than 24 hours. 

  • If a small plastic tube (a catheter) is left in then an infusion of local anaesthetic can be carried on after the operation, to keep you comfortable and help you get moving. Some hospitals have started sending patients home with these infusions.

  • Using medicines such as ketamine and lignocaine infusions have been found to reduce pain after surgery and the risk of persistent pain.

  • There's not clear evidence for medicines for nerve pain - pregabalin and gabapentin - some small research studies have shown less morphine needed in the day after surgery.

  • Clonidine - originally a blood pressure medicine -  has good evidence for reducing pain and morphine use in the first day after surgery, but not long term pain.



  • Ask if it is possible to get a local anaesthetic block and if a catheter infusion of local anaesthetic can be carried on for 2 -3 days after the operation.

  • Ask about strategies the anaesthetist is planning to use to minimise pain.

  • Ask about the plan for post op pain relief - will you be reviewed by the acute pain team?

  • What plans are there for pain that's not controlled?  

While we believe that the advice on this website is accurate and based on expert medical opinion you should always consult your healthcare professional on any matter related to your health and well being. He or she knows your circumstances best and therefore the appropriate action to take on your behalf.

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