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Potential side-effects, risks, and complications of anaesthesia

Australia is one of the safest places in the world to undergo anaesthesia and surgery.  The rates of unexpected serious injury or death are extremely low.  However, nothing is 100% safe.  In this section I have provided some information about some potential side-effects, risks, and complications of anaesthesia.

One must remember that in most cases except for pure cosmetic surgery, not having the surgery has more risks than having the surgery.  Not having a hernia repaired may lead to some bowel being strangulated in the hernia.  Not having a gallbladder removed may lead to a gallstone causing pancreatitis.  Not having a knee replacement may lead to you not being able to “exercise”, leading to higher cholesterol and diabetes and their associated complications.  Even recurrent tonsillitis or sinusitis usually gets better by itself or with antibiotics, but may lead to sepsis or formation of an abscess.

Not all of these anaesthetic risks apply to all people, and some risks apply to some people that are not covered in these lists.

This information is not designed to replace our “informed consent for anaesthesia”.  This information is, however, more information than I am usually able to cover in our pre-anaesthetic consultation.  In our pre-anaesthetic consultation I usually tailor our discussion to focus on the risks I believe are most important for you, given who you are and what surgery you are having.

Reading this section also gives you the opportunity to ask questions of me if there is something that you are particularly concerned about and wish to know more about.


Common but relatively minor side effects

Rare but potentially very serious complications

Extremely rare but potentially catastrophic complications