Emergency patients need special considerations and the number and severity of complications from general anaesthesia can be higher than during scheduled procedures. Guidelines are therefore needed. The Clinical Practice Committee of the Scandinavian Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine appointed a working group to develop guidelines based on literature searches to assess evidence, and a consensus meeting was held. Consensus opinion was used in the many topics where high-grade evidence was unavailable. The recommendations include the following: anaesthesia for emergency patients should be given by, or under very close supervision by, experienced anaesthesiologists. Problems with the airway and the circulation must be anticipated. The risk of aspiration must be judged for each patient. Pre-operative gastric emptying is rarely indicated. For pre-oxygenation, either tidal volume breathing for 3 min or eight deep breaths over 60 s and oxygen flow 10 l/min should be used. Pre-oxygenation in the obese patients should be performed in the head-up position. The use of cricoid pressure is not considered mandatory, but can be used on individual judgement. The hypnotic drug has a minor influence on intubation conditions, and should be chosen on other grounds. Ketamine should be considered in haemodynamically compromised patients. Opioids may be used to reduce the stress response following intubation. For optimal intubation conditions, succinylcholine 1–1.5 mg/kg is preferred. Outside the operation room, rapid sequence intubation is also considered the safest method. For all patients, precautions to avoid aspiration and other complications must also be considered at the end of anaesthesia.