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North Sector (Glasgow Royal Infirmary)

Your anaesthetic for hip and knee surgery

Anaesthesia allows you to be pain free and comfortable during your operation. For many operations this involves a general anaesthetic which is a state of controlled unconsciousness induced by medication. However, some modern anaesthetic techniques mean that this is not always required.

Spinal Anaesthesia is a technique by which the lower half of your body can be made completely numb. This means you can have a hip or knee replaced without a general anaesthetic. Most patients undergoing hip or knee replacement will have this type of anaesthetic when there are no surgical or medical reasons why it would not be suitable. Your preferences are also important and you will be able to discuss the options with your anaesthetist.

The benefits of a spinal anaesthetic are that, while you will be completely free of pain, you can remain fully conscious if you choose and listen to music (you are welcome to bring a portable music system and headphones with you) or doze off yourself so avoiding the sedative effects of medication. Equally, you may choose to have some sedation during the operation itself to help you relax or if you would prefer not to have clear memories of being in the surgical theatre. Your anaesthetist will discuss this with you on the day of surgery and ensure you are comfortable throughout.

The sensation and normal movement in your legs will return gradually after your operation allowing you to take timely pain relieving medication before the sensation has completely returned. This can help you manage the discomfort after the surgery. The risk of blood clots in your leg or bleeding may also be reduced.  As with any anaesthetic or procedure there are potential side effects and complications. More detail regarding these and the other anaesthetic options that may be suitable are found in our leaflet.

In some cases, especially knee replacement surgery, your anaesthetist may place a longer lasting local anaesthetic around other nerves in your leg to help reduce the discomfort for a little longer after surgery. This is known as a “nerve block”. They will discuss this with you on the day of your operation.

There are occasions where, for medical or surgical reasons, a spinal anaesthetic is not suitable and your anaesthetist will be able to discuss the options with you. This often includes a general anaesthetic. Your preferences as to the type of anaesthetic you receive are also important so please take the time to consider these and ask your anaesthetist for advice. In some instances you may be asked to attend the hospital specifically to see an Anaesthetist if the specialist nursing staff in the pre-operative assessment clinic feel this would be of benefit to you. In most cases you will meet your Anaesthetist on the day of surgery.

Your anaesthetic for upper limb surgery
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Glasgow Royal Infirmary ASPiRe

The ASPiRe programme supports people to prepare for surgery by promoting healthy behaviours and prescribing physical activity, nutrition and psychological interventions based on a person’s needs. This is called “prehabilitation”.

Here you will find information about what you can do and where you can find help to help you prepare for your operation and help your recovery.