This document is a brief summary only. On the day of your surgery your anaesthetist will answer all of your questions and together you will decide on the anaesthetic technique for you.

What anaesthetic techniques are available?

Local anaesthesia

Very few procedures are performed with local anaesthesia alone, but it is commonly combined with general anaesthesia. This combination gives you pain relief after you wake up. Before surgery, anaesthetic may be sprayed into your nose which may be uncomfortable for a short while.

General anaesthesia

You will be unconscious and remember nothing of the surgery. You will be given a selection of drugs for pain, relaxation and for prevention of nausea and vomiting. After you are asleep you will usually have a tube placed into your airway and you will wake up with a light clear plastic oxygen mask on your face.

What are the anaesthetic risks?

Local anaesthesia 

It is uncommon* to get damage to the lining of the airway, which would result in temporary bleeding or sore throat lasting hours or days. Overdose of an anaesthetic or other drug is uncommon* and may result in dizziness or a seizure. It usually has no lasting effect.

General anaesthesia

Sore throat, shivering or bruising at the injection site are very common*.  Nausea, vomiting, confusion or dizziness are common*. These complications range from mild to severe and usually go away within hours or days. Tooth damage, such as chipping, dislodgement or breakage of a crown or bridge, is uncommon*. Serious complications such as being partly awake or drug allergy are rare*, and nerve damage, equipment failure, brain damage or death are very rare*.

Tooth damage

With sedation or anaesthesia there is a risk of dental damage. The hospital is not liable for treatment or repair of dental damage.

* Definitions used

  • Very common (1 in 10) such as getting the flu or food poisoning this year.
  • Common (1 in 100) such as winning any prize in one game of Saturday Lotto.
  • Uncommon (1 in 1000) such as winning the trifecta in a 13-horse race.
  • Rare (1 in 10,000) such as being struck by lightning.
  • Very rare (1 in 100,000) such as dying from a snake, bee or other venomous bite or sting.

Do you want more information before the day of surgery?

If you wish to discuss in more detail the risks, proposed technique or possible complications of your anaesthetic, please ring the Pre-admission Clinic on 03 9929 8647 (Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm) and arrange an appointment with a specialist anaesthetist.


Disclaimer This document describes the generally accepted practice at the time of publication only. It is only a summary of clinical knowledge regarding this area. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information contained in this document is comprehensive. They accept no responsibility for any consequence arising from inappropriate application of this information.

  • Anaesthetic Techniques and Risks – Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery #178
  • Owner: Department of Anaesthetics
  • Last Reviewed: October 10, 2018
  • Next Review: October 10, 2021