Types of anaesthesia

The type of anaesthesia used will depend on the nature and duration of the procedure, your general medical condition, and your preference, your and those of your anaesthetist and surgeon or other doctor performing the procedure.  

General anaesthesia

You are put into a state of unconsciousness for the duration of the operation. This is usually achieved by injecting drugs through a cannula placed in a vein and maintained with intravenous drugs or a mixture of gases which you will breathe. While you remain unaware of what is happening around you, the anaesthetist monitors your condition closely and constantly adjusts the level of anaesthesia. You will often be asked to breathe oxygen through a mask just before your anaesthesia starts.

Regional anaesthesia

A nerve block numbs the part of the body where the surgeon operates and this avoids the need for general anaesthesia. You may be awake or sedated (see below).
Examples of regional anaesthesia include epidurals for labour, spinal anaesthesia for caesarean section and ‘eye blocks’ for cataracts.

Local anaesthesia

A local anaesthetic drug is injected at the site of the surgery to cause numbness. You will be awake but feel no pain. An obvious example of local anaesthesia is numbing an area of skin before having a cut stitched.


The anaesthetist administers drugs to make you relaxed and drowsy. This is sometimes called ‘twilight sleep’ or ‘intravenous sedation’ and may be used for some eye surgery, some plastic surgery and for some gastroenterological procedures. Recall of events is possible with ‘sedation’. Most patients prefer to have little or no recall of events. Please discuss your preference with your anaesthetist.