Surgery Day – Types of Anesthetic

There are many types of anesthetics. These are chosen based on the type of surgery you are having. One of the greatest risk factor in surgery is the anesthesia, so it is important to use the minimum necessary to complete the surgery.

Local Anesthesia

Locals numb only the area of your body on which the procedure is being performed. Most people have experienced this at the dentist, when having a tooth filled. It is administered via needle to the affected area, although for some functions it may be applied topically. This type of anesthesia is usually used for procedures where a lot of pain is not expected. You are awake the entire time, although sometimes you might receive a medicine to help you relax.

Regional Anesthesia

These are injected into a bundle of nerves to freeze everything below it. This can allow you to be awake during your surgery. The epidural method of this type of anesthetic is often used for childbirth. Other times it is combined with other medicines to allow you to sleep or relax for longer or more invasive procedures. This anesthetic can last well after the surgery, so is sometimes combined with a general anesthetic in order to block pain for a few hours after the surgery.

Regional anesthetics can be one time injections that last a specific and limited period of time, or as an ongoing intravenous of catheter which can be administered by the anaesthesiologist ongoing. There are many variations on these anaesthetics:

  • Epidural anesthesia numbs you from the chest down. It is administered throughout the procedure via a small catheter in your back. It wears off when medicine is no longer administered into the catheter.
  • Spinal anesthesia is injected into your back leaving you numb from about mid-chest down. Once it is administered you are not able to move your legs for one to 4 hours.
  • Intravenous (IV) regional anaesthesia is injected into an arm or leg, and then a pressure cuff is attached to keep the anaesthetic in the affected limb.
  • Interscalene block is a shot injected in your neck to numb shoulder and arm and allows you to be awake.
  • Peripheral nerve block is a shot into your arm or leg; your limb will then be numb for four to eighteen hours.
  • Saddle block Medicine is injected into the lower part of your back and numbs you below the waist.

General Anesthesia

This anesthetic knocks you out completely. When it starts to kick in, it will feel a little like falling asleep, except that it happens fast. Once it does, you are completely unconscious until the procedure is over. It is usually administered by intravenous or orally, by gas mask or endotracheal tube. Waking up from it is very much like waking from an especially deep sleep.

Anesthetic Combinations

Much of the time regional anesthetics will be combined with other drugs or anesthetics in order to get the most effective results. Regional anesthetics are often combined with general anesthetics. Many times a drug to make you relax or sleep will be administered with a local or regional anesthetic to make it easier on the patient.

Check out my last post in this series:  Surgery Day – Hospital Check-In
Check out my next post in this series: Surgery Day – Administration of Anesthesia