Anaesthetists provide comprehensive perioperative medical care to patients undergoing surgical and diagnostic procedures, including postoperative intensive care when needed. They are involved in the management of perioperative acute pain as well as chronic pain. This manuscript considers some of the recent advances in modern anaesthesia and their contribution to surgery, from the basic mechanisms of action, to the delivery systems for general and regional anaesthesia, to the use of new drugs and new methods of monitoring. It assesses the resulting progress in acute and chronic pain services and looks at patient safety and risk management. It speculates on directions that may shape its future contributions to the management of the patient undergoing surgery.