General Information

What is an Anaesthetist?

An anaesthetist is a specialist doctor. After completing a degree in medicine (about 6 years) and basic hospital training (about 3 years) doctors may choose to specialise in one area of medicine, surgery or general practice.

Doctors who wish to become specialist anaesthetists must work in an accredited hospital training program for at least a further five years gaining knowledge, skills and experience in the areas of anaesthesia, intensive care, emergency pain and perioperative medicine.

Recognition as a specialist anaesthetist is granted by the Commonwealth government when the doctor has completed the specialty training program and passed the examinations of the College of Anaesthetists.

Your anaesthetist is responsible for your wellbeing and safety throughout your surgery. This includes planning then giving your anaesthetic, and arranging appropriate postoperative care and pain control.

The Anaesthetic Fee

A fee will be charged for your anaesthesia services. The fee for your anaesthesia is separate from the fees charged by any other doctors caring for you. It is also separate from the fees charged by the institution (hospital, day surgery facility, endoscopy centre etc) where the service takes place.

Your anaesthesia fees will vary depending on the complexity and duration of the anaesthesia services provided. It is your responsibility to pay your anaesthetist for the services provided.

You may be able to claim a rebate from Medicare for your anaesthesia services. The Medicare rebate is not related to the worth of the anaesthesia service provided in most cases it will cover only part of your anaesthesia fee. If you have private health insurance, then you may be able to claim an additional rebate from your private health fund for part of your anaesthesia fee.

Often there is a gap amount between the anaesthesia fee and any rebates paid by Medicare and private health funds. It is your responsibility to pay to your anaesthetist any gap amount, in addition to your Medicare and private health fund rebates.

Government and private insurance company regulations have prevented patients from insuring against the full cost of medical fees. Gap fees have arisen because the Commonwealth Government has not indexed Medicare rebates adequately for the past 25 years. Medicare rebates for anaesthesia are approximately equal to only one third of the rebates for the corresponding surgical operation. For further information please read the information on why gaps exist.

Because your anaesthesia fee will vary depending on how long your anaesthesia service takes, it is not generally possible to give a definite cost prior to your anaesthetic. However, an estimate based on the anticipated time for your anaesthesia service can be obtained by emailing us at or by phoning (02) 9437 6333. If you have concerns about this estimated fee you should discuss them with your anaesthetist prior to your anaesthesia.

What is anaesthesia?

The word anaesthesia means loss of sensation. If you have ever had a dental injection in your mouth or pain-killing drops put in your eyes, you already know important things about anaesthesia. It stops you feeling pain and other sensations It can be given in various ways Not all anaesthesia makes you unconscious It can be directed to different parts of the body Some types of anaesthesia

  • Local anaesthesia

A local anaesthetic numbs a small part of your body. It is used when the nerves can easily be reached by drops, sprays, ointments or injections. You stay conscious but free from pain.

  • Regional anaesthesia

Regional anaesthesia can be used for operations on larger or deeper parts of the body. Local anaesthetic drugs are injected near to the bundles of nerves which carry signals from that area of the body to the brain. The most common regional anaesthetics (also known as regional blocks) are spinal and epidural anaesthetics. These can be used for operations on the lower body such as Caesarean sections.

  • Sedation

Sedation is the use of small amounts of anaesthetic or similar drugs to produce a sleepy-like state. It makes you physically and mentally relaxed during an investigation or procedure which may be unpleasant or painful (such as an endoscopy) but where your co-operation is needed. You may remember a little about what happened but often you will remember nothing. This is known as conscious sedation, and may be used by other professionals as well as anaesthetists. Sedation is also commonly used in combination with a local or regional anaesthetic.

  • General anaesthesia

General anaesthesia is a state of controlled unconsciousness during which you feel nothing and may be described as anaesthetised. This is important for some operations and may be used as an alternative to regional anaesthesia for others. Anaesthetic drugs injected into a vein, or anaesthetic gases breathed into the lungs, are carried to the brain by the blood. They stop the brain recognising messages coming from the nerves in the body. Controlled unconsciousness is different from unconsciousness due to disease or injury and is different from sleep. As the anaesthetic drugs wear off, your consciousness starts to return. A regional anaesthetic may be given as well as a general anaesthetic to provide pain relief after the operation or to control the way your body responds to the surgery.

Acute Pain
Anaesthetists aim to control the pain after surgery by the use of various drugs and other techniques commenced before or at the time of surgery. Pain after surgery is called acute pain and can be expected after most operations. The management of pain has changed over recent years and now includes the use of multimodal analgesia which means using low doses of several drugs to produce the best pain relief with minimal side effects. Some of these drugs may be given as a local or regional nerve block. Some may be given through a pump which is controlled by the patient themselves. This is called a PCA. Most anaesthetists are very experienced with which of these drugs are best in certain situations. Some pain control situations are particularly challenging and require the involvement of a pain management specialist. Several of the anaesthetists in Sydney anaesthetics are subspecialists in this field.