Frequently Asked Questions

Since giving birth is a natural process, it can be done without an epidural. Epidurals are administered while giving birth to make the mother more comfortable. They allow you to give birth almost without any pain. In our hospital, over 90% of women request an epidural when they give birth. Every medical procedure carries with it a certain degree of risk. In the case of epidurals, complications are rare and can usually be treated. Sometimes, an epidural can cause headaches. Backache is usually connected to giving birth itself, and not to the epidural. Paraplegia, which is often what people fear, almost never occurs. When it does, it is generally connected to an infection or to coagulation disorders. In healthy individuals, it occurs with a frequency of around 1/200,000. An epidural may, however, very rarely lead to permanent sensory and/or motor disabilities.

The UEP provides a specialised pre-operative consultation, during which you will meet, among others, your anaesthetist. He/she will assess your state of health and offer you the anaesthetic that is most appropriate to the intervention which you are going to undergo. He/she will also explain to you what you need to do before your operation. For medical and legal reasons this consultation must take place a certain length of time before a scheduled operation.

In our hospital, you may accompany your child up to the door to the operating block; after this point, you must entrust him/her to the healthcare staff. For reasons connected to safety and sterility, it is unfortunately not possible for parents to enter the operating block. However, it is important that you prepare your child by explaining in detail what is going to happen to him/her. Being well prepared will relieve a large amount of his/her stress. Most children are also given “a little calming syrup” before they go to the operating block. This syrup relaxes them and largely relieves their fear.

This type of occurrence is known as ‘awareness’ in specialised jargon. It is extremely rare! Nowadays, anaesthetic techniques are sufficiently advanced to avoid this type of incident. There are also devices which allow us to measure the depth of the patient’s sleep, though unfortunately they do not yet guarantee absolute security. During the whole time that the patient is anaesthetised, he/she will have an anaesthetist or a specialised nurse by his/her side, who will administer the anaesthetic in order to prevent the patient waking up unexpectedly.

As a rule, such impairment is rare and is resolved spontaneously in a few hours, or, more rarely, a few days. Young patients are almost never affected by this type of problem. Elderly patients who already suffer from memory impairment are more susceptible to post-operative confusion. The older a patient is, the more the intervention and anaesthesia are important and the more mnesic impairment can be severe. Memory impairment can be caused not just by anaesthesia, but also by the surgical intervention itself.

This risk is almost non-existent. For a person in perfect health undergoing a standard operation, it is around 1/220,000. This is very rare! Some very major operations may require a stay in intensive care. The patient will only be woken up several hours after the intervention. Of course, this possibility is discussed with the patient before the intervention.

If you have undergone an intervention involving an anaesthetic in the outpatient clinic and you develop a problem once you are already home, we recommend that you immediately get in touch with the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department. The Accident and Emergency department is open 24 hours a day and will provide you with instructions in case of any problem.

Under a general anaesthetic, the patient is completely asleep. Under a local anaesthetic, only part of the body is anaesthetised. A local anaesthetic may be combined with a small sedative, in order to ensure that the patient is sleeping lightly. Each type of anaesthetic has its own risks and advantages. Some types of anaesthetic are better suited to certain operations and to certain conditions. Your anaesthetist will recommend the best type for you depending on your state of health and on the operation you are going to undergo.

Smoking is bad for your health. In order for there to be a positive effect on your lungs, you should stop smoking several weeks before you receive an anaesthetic. Smoking before you receive an anaesthetic is not recommended, but if you are unable to stop yourself, it may be tolerated in exceptional cases.

Whether you have received a general anaesthetic, a local anaesthetic or just anaesthetic support, you are not allowed to drive for 24 hours. As a rule, when an anaesthetic procedure is carried out, the patient will be given a certain number of medicines which may alter his/her reflexes or induce drowsiness for a few hours. Driving with these medicines in your body is like driving when you are drunk, even if you feel perfectly well. The tests that are carried out by the police in case of any accident allow them to detect these substances, and the driver is punishable in the same way as if he/she had drunk alcohol. Following an anaesthetic, you must arrange for someone to accompany you back home.

You must have an empty stomach before you receive an anaesthetic. This means that you can eat up to 6 hours and drink (only) water up to 2 hours before the anaesthesia. If you do not comply with this rule, there is a high risk that you will vomit at the start of the anaesthesia. There is then a risk that the contents of an unconscious patient’s stomach will go into his/her lungs and cause a serious pneumonia requiring intensive care. This rule also applies to local anaesthetics where the patient is conscious, in particular if, for whatever reason, he/she must then still be given a full anaesthetic.