Introduction to Anesthesia?
What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medicine to prevent the feeling of pain or another sensation during surgery or other procedures that might be painful. Given as an injection or through inhaled gases or vapors, different types of anesthesia affect the nervous system in various ways by blocking nerve impulses and, therefore, pain.
In today's hospitals and surgery centers, highly trained professionals use a wide variety of safe, modern medications and extremely capable monitoring technology. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who specializes in giving and managing anesthetics — the medications that numb an area of the body or help you fall and stay asleep.
In addition to administering anesthesia medications before the surgery, the anesthesiologist will:
- monitor your major bodily functions (such as breathing, heart rate and rhythm, body temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels) during surgery
- address any problems that might arise during surgery
- manage any pain you may have after surgery
- keep you as comfortable as possible before, during, and after surgery
A specially trained nurse anesthetist, who works with the anesthesiologist and surgeon, may assist in giving you anesthesia (although the anesthesiologist will be the one to manage the anesthesia and make all major anesthesia-related decisions during the operation).
Types of Anesthesia
General Anesthesia - General anesthesia acts primarily on the brain and central nervous system to make the patient unconscious and unaware. It is administered via the patient's circulatory system by a combination of inhaled gas and injected drugs. After the initial injection, anesthesia is maintained with inhaled gas anesthetics and additional drugs through an intravenous line (IV).
Local Anesthesia - is medicine given to temporarily stop the sense of pain in a particular area of the body. A patient remains conscious during a local anesthetic. For minor surgery, a local anesthetic can be administered via injection to the site. However, when a large area needs to be numbed, or if a local anesthetic injection will not penetrate deep enough, physicians may resort to regional anesthetics.
Regional Anesthesia - involves injection of a local anesthetic (numbing agent) around major nerves or the spinal cord to block pain from a larger but still limited part of the body. You will likely receive medicine to help you relax or sleep during surgery. Major types of regional anesthesia include:
- Spinal - often used for lower abdominal, pelvic, rectal, or lower extremity surgery. This type of anesthetic involves injecting a single dose of the anesthetic agent directly into the spinal cord in the lower back, causing numbness in the lower body.
- Epidural, and caudal anesthesia - this anesthetic is similar to a spinal anesthetic and also is commonly used for surgery of the lower limbs and during labor and childbirth. This type of anesthesia involves continually infusing drugs through a thin catheter that has been placed into the space that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower back, causing numbness in the lower body.
- Nerve blocks - A local anesthetic is injected near a specific nerve or group of nerves to block pain from the area of the body supplied by the nerve. Nerve blocks are most commonly used for procedures on the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face. Example - a Brachial Plexus block may be used by your anesthesiologist to provide anesthesia to your entire arm and shoulder.