New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists (NZSA) – Level 1, Central House, 26 Brandon Street, Wellington 6011
04 494 0124 | nzsa@anaesthesia.nz

About anaesthesia

This information is for  prospective patients interested in learning general information about anaesthetists and surgical practices

In New Zealand, each year approximately 250,000 surgical procedures are carried out with anaesthesia which allows the patient to be unconscious and pain free during their operation. Here is an article about general anaesthesia, and here is a short video.

About 65 percent of New Zealand women elect or require the services of an anaesthetist during child labour.  The NZSA provides an informative video on Epidural Pain Relief in Labour and brochure Your Epidural.

The use of Anaesthesia is now safer than it has ever been and is regarded as one of the safest medical interventions. However, major complications can still occur including the risk of dying. Statistically, the chance of mortality during an operation depends on the patient’s age and health. Complications are more prevalent in the very young and the elderly, while levels of fitness are adversely affected by obesity and smoking. However, for a fit patient under 60 years of age, the chances of dying due to an anaesthetic complication is approximately 1 in 1,000,000. Statistics for those undergoing anaesthetic mortality over the age of 60 can be higher depending on co-existing conditions.

Other very rare occurrences from anaesthetic complications include: heart attack, stroke, major nerve damage, brain dysfunction, organ failure, allergic reaction and reawakening during a procedure.

More information is made available to patients prior to undergoing surgery by the anaesthetist when the patient is required to either interview, fill in a questionnaire, or attend a pre-admission clinic. As part of the NZSA’s commitment to the practice of Informed Consent, the Society produces information leaflets, Your Anaesthetic, that may be given to patients by the hospital before a medical procedure about the risks associated with anaesthetics.

About anaesthetists

Anaesthetists are highly qualified specialist doctors who administer several different types of anaesthetic techniques depending on patient and surgical needs, from a general anaesthetic where the patient is put into a state of unconsciousness throughout an operation, to a local anaesthetic which causes numbness only at the site of surgery. Additional practices include administering regional anaesthesia, by utilising local anaesthesia to block major nerve pathways to a region of the body where the surgery is to take place and monitored sedation, a practice of utilising drugs to keep a patient comfortable and drowsy yet conscious enough to answer questions if need be.

Where else might you find your anaesthetist?

Besides the operating theatre, anaesthetists’ skills are widely used in patient care for radiology or radiotherapy procedures, post-operative pain relief and for acute or chronic pain management. Anaesthetists perform in operating theatres, intensive care units, accident and emergency departments, obstetric units, at dentistries, and even in psychiatry units. They are also widely involved in teaching, training undergraduate medical students, postgraduates, nurses and as well as many other paramedics.

Training qualifications

Anaesthetists train for seven years to obtain their medical degree and registration and a further five to seven years working in a hospital, gaining experience and completing postgraduate exams before they qualify as a specialist anaesthetist. A specialist anaesthetist is one of the most highly trained doctors in a hospital.