Each year, millions of people in the United States undergo some form of medical treatment requiring anesthesia. Anesthesia, in the hands of qualified professionals, is a safe and effective means of alleviating pain during nearly every type of medical procedure. Anesthesia care includes surgery and all activities that take place before and after anesthetic is administered.
There are three main categories of anesthesia, each having many forms and uses; general anesthesia, regional anesthesia and local anesthesia.
In general anesthesia, you are unconscious and have no awareness or other sensations. There are a number of general anesthetic drugs – some are gases or vapors inhaled through a breathing mask or tube and others are medications injected intravenously (into a vein). To achieve the right balance of effects, the anesthesiologist often combines sleep-inducing agents (hypnotics) with analgesics (drugs that relieve pain but don’t block other sensations) and muscle relaxants. Many of these medications are administered through a small plastic catheter placed in a vein before surgery. The anesthesiologist often starts with a medication to relieve anxiety. Muscle relaxants and analgesics are then used as muscle relaxants keep the body still during surgery while analgesics blunt the body’s response to pain, helping steady the heart rate and blood pressure. A patient who receives muscle relaxants may need help with breathing. For that purpose, the anesthesiologist may place a breathing tube in the patient’s throat, which is connected to a ventilator.
In regional anesthesia your anesthesiologist makes an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of your body that requires surgery. You may remain awake, or you may be given a sedative; in either case you do not see or feel the actual surgery taking place. There are several kinds of regional anesthesia; the two most common are spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia. Again, one of our highly qualified and caring anesthesiologists constantly monitors vital functions and comfort and sedation level to make adjustments to medications as needed.
In local anesthesia, the anesthetic drug is usually injected into the tissue to numb just the specific location of your body requiring minor surgery. An anesthesiologist may be present during the procedure to monitor your vital signs and administer intravenous medications and/or sedation.
In certain situations, a combination of general and regional anesthesia may be appropriate. Following your pre-anesthetic evaluation, your anesthesiologist will recommend an anesthetic choice for you, taking into account your health status, preferences and the nature of your surgical procedure.