Association of Physicians for Anaesthesia and Intensive Care

The Centre for Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine at the Hirslanden Klinik Aarau monitors the functioning of all the vital organs during operations, severe illnesses and after accidents. Before surgery, medical specialists meet with the patient to discuss which form of anaesthesia (e.g. general anaesthesia or local anaesthesia) is most suitable for them and explain how the anaesthesia is carried out. The centre’s team of doctors is also responsible for looking after patients in the intensive care unit and treating patients experiencing pain.

Anaesthetic procedures are safe, all vital functions, such as heart activity, circulation and breathing, are monitored continually. Nevertheless, we feel it is our duty to inform you about the potential risks, however unlikely they might be.

General anaesthesia risks

The risk of life threatening incidents, such as a heart attack, circulatory and respiratory failure, malignant hyperthermia (anaesthesia associated fever) etc., even for severely ill patients, is extremely low. Nonetheless, death with any anaesthesia, even if very rare, is possible and must always be considered before consenting to surgery. Rare cases of allergic reactions and nerve injury may occur. Some temporary unpleasant side-effects that you may experience after the anaesthesia include nausea and vomiting, shivering, feeling cold, itching, bruises, back pain or headache, and urinary retention.

General anaesthesia

General anaesthesia is the total loss of consciousness as a result of giving drugs. Patients usually loose the ability to maintain their airway and require assistance in breathing. A general anaesthetic provides analgesia (loss of pain), amnesia (memory loss) and relaxation of muscles. Specific risks: hoarseness, difficulty in swallowing, aspiration, vocal chord injury, dental injury, particularly for already damaged teeth, awareness while under anaesthesia (very rare).

Regional anaesthesia

Spinal anaesthesia or epidural

Both methods block the nerves leading from the surgical site to the spinal cord. They result in a loss of feeling thereby preventing any feeling of pain in the affected region. Specific risks: headache, temporary low blood pressure, nausea, urinary retention. Major complications, such as impaired sight or hearing, permanent nerve root injury may occur but are very rare.

Combined anaesthesia

In the event of very painful post-operative surgery (e.g. major stomach or lung operations, shoulder surgery), a general anaesthesia is often combined with a regional or local anaesthesia method in order to improve pain treatment after the operation.

Local anaesthesia

Local anaesthesia blocks pain impulses by injecting a drug into the skin or around a nerve in non-toxic concentrations. If the effect is insufficient, pain-killers or a general anaesthetic may be administered at any time.

Specific risks: confusion, dizziness, numbness around the mouth, metallic taste in the mouth, ringing in the ears, disturbances of vision and seizures. The drugs may also cause severely low blood pressure and a collapse of the heart and blood vessel system.

Sedation, light sleep

May lead to a drug induced superficial sleep and possibly a "memory gap". Specific risks: suppressed breathing.

Specific risks from special procedures

Arterial cannulae: arterial occlusion, haematoma. Central venous catheters: infection, collapsed lungs, bleeding,  air embolism, nerve injury. Urine catheters: infection, later narrowing of the urethra. Blood transfusion: intolerance reaction, transmission of infectious diseases (hepatitis, HIV).