Benefits and risks of anaesthesia
The risk to you as an individual will depend on:
- whether you have any other illness
- personal factors, such as whether you smoke or are overweight
- surgery which is complicated, long or done in an emergency.
Everyone varies in the risks they are willing to take. Anaesthetists and patients may also hold different views about the importance of risk.
To understand a risk, you must know:
- how likely it is to happen
- how serious it could be
- how it can be treated.
The more complicated the anaesthesia and surgery are, the more chance there is of complications and side effects. It is the responsibility of the anaesthetist to advise you on what anaesthetic techniques will give you greatest benefit and reduce as far as possible these risks.
Side effects and complications of anaesthesia
Side effects are secondary effects of drugs or treatment. They can often be anticipated but are sometimes unavoidable. Almost all treatments (including drugs) have side effects of some kind. Unpleasant side effects do not usually last long. Some are best left to wear off and others can be treated. Examples would be a sore throat or sickness after a general anaesthetic.
Complications are unexpected and unwanted events due to a treatment. Examples would be an unexpected allergy to a drug or damage to your teeth caused by difficulty in placing a breathing tube.
Index of side effects and complications
People vary in how they interpret words and numbers. This scale is provided to help.
Very Common 1 in 10
Common 1 in 100
Uncommon 1 in 1000
Rare 1 in 10,000
Very Rare 1 in 100,000
Using this index
There is also a key to show which side effect or complication is relevant to which type of anaesthetic.
RA = This may occur with a regional anaesthetic.
GA = This may occur with a general anaesthetic.
If you see the symbol ** next to the item, this means you can find detailed information about this risk on our website.
|Feeling sick and vomiting after surgery**
|Dizziness and feeling faint
|Aches, pains and backache
|Bruising and soreness
|Confusion or memory loss**
|Damage to teeth, lips or tongue**
|An existing medical condition getting worse
|Damage to the eyes**
|Serious allergy to drugs**
|Death or Brain Damage**
- Confusion after Anaesthesia
- Risk of Nerve injury after general anaesthesia
- Risk of anaphylaxis under anaesthesia
- Risk of awareness under general anaesthesia
- Risk of damge to teeth or gums during anaesthesia
- Risk of Death or Brain Damage
- Risk of Equipment Failure
- Risk of Eye damage during anaesthesia
- Risk of feeling sick after anaesthesia
- Risk of nerve injury after peripheral nerve block
- Risk of nerve injury after spinal or epidural injection
- Risk of postoperative chest infection
- Risk of shivering after anaesthesia
- Risk of sore throat after general anaesthesia