Without the advancements and developments in anesthesia since its first use in 1846, many modern procedures and surgeries would not be possible. By eliminating pain, surgeons are able to perform otherwise extremely painful surgeries on patients in need. Although anesthesia is extremely common and necessary for many surgeries, patients are still sometimes apprehensive about “going under”. By explaining the three types of anesthesia, we hope to ease the minds of patients who may be preparing to undergo a surgery that requires some type of anesthesia.
Local anesthesia is typically used for minor procedures where the physician does not need the patient to be unconscious for the surgery. It is used to block the nerves in one specific part of the body without affecting any other area. For example, if someone was receiving certain types of dental surgery, a local anesthetic would be used just to numb that area of the mouth, but would not affect the rest of the body.
Local anesthesia can be administered in the form of an injection, or topically with a spray or ointment. This type of anesthesia usually starts to work within a few minutes and wears off after a few hours. While the patient will not feel pain during the procedure, they may feel slight pressure in the area.
Regional anesthesia is used to numb larger parts of the body during more invasive procedures, but the patient is still not unconscious. It is most commonly used for surgeries on the lower body, such as cesarean sections or surgery on the legs. Different types of regional anesthesia include spinal anesthesia, epidural anesthesia, and nerve blocks.
Regional anesthesia may be administered with a needle or a catheter line which allows anesthetics and other medications can be administered throughout the procedure. This type of anesthesia is typically used when long term pain relief is needed.
General anesthesia is the type where the patient is put completely to sleep. This allows the surgeon to operate without any interruption, and keeps the patient from feeling any pain or having any memory of the procedure. This is used for surgeries that cannot be done with the patient being conscious.
General anesthesia is typically inhaled through a breathing mask or given intravenously. During the procedure, patients are closely monitored by their anesthesiologist to make sure heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels are regulated. The anesthesiologist also carefully controls and adjusts the amount of anesthesia given throughout the surgery.
The three types of anesthesia are extremely helpful in successfully operating on patients undergoing surgeries of all kinds. By understanding each type, patients can have peace of mind knowing which type of anesthesia they are receiving and why. If you or a loved one is preparing for a procedure that requires anesthesia, visit our page that discusses anesthesia information for surgery patients.