Decision making in post-anaesthetic care practice is an underresearched area. The patient undergoes rapid and profound physiological change in the early stages of recovery. The practitioner is required to assimilate information about the patient, assess his clinical status, plan proactive care and provide an immediate reactive intervention depending on his/her condition. Knowledge and understanding of the standard risks of anaesthesia and surgery ensure that the practitioner is able to prevent complications arising in the routine recovery. This article investigates the role that risk assessment plays in clinical decision making and planning care in the post-anaesthetic care unit.