Understanding Anesthesia

Anesthesiologists are dedicated to relieving pain and caring for patients before, during, and after surgery. There are three main types of anesthesia used during surgery: General Anesthesia Regional Anesthesia Monitored Anesthesia Care

General Anesthesia

Under general anesthesia, you are unconscious and have no awareness or sensation. Usually, intravenous (IV) medications are given to initiate this state. A breathing tube may be placed to protect your lungs and help breathe for you while you are asleep. There are a number of anesthetic medications that are given through an IV or through a breathing tube that keep you asleep, comfortable and provide for pain control when you awaken. Sometimes a general anesthetic is combined with regional anesthesia to provide optimal pain control.

Regional Anesthesia

A regional anesthetic is when your physician anesthesiologist places local anesthesia around a group of nerves. This medication causes numbness at the surgical site. Sedatives or a general anesthetic are often given through your IV to ensure your comfort while you are in the operating room. There are 3 main types of regional anesthesia: 1. Spinal 2. Epidural 3. Peripheral Nerve Blocks 1. A spinal is a type of anesthetic where a very small, delicate needle is inserted into your back and into the fluid around your spinal nerves. A single dose of numbing medication is injected, causing numbness of your lower abdomen and lower extremities for a short duration of time. A spinal anesthetic is most often used for operations in the lower abdomen and lower extremities. 2. An epidural is a type of anesthetic where, a tiny, flexible and hollow plastic tube is placed into the back where the nerves exit the spine sheath. A continuous infusion of numbing medication is then used to provide pain control. For major surgeries of the chest, abdomen, and lower extremities, the epidural catheter may be left in place for several days to provide pain relief. Our Acute Pain Service sees you everyday when you are in the hospital with a pain catheter. 3. Peripheral Nerve Blocks allow us to numb an extremity. Either a single dose of numbing medication, or a continuous catheter is used to provide pain relief. Peripheral nerve blocks are often combined with general anesthesia or IV sedation to provide for your comfort in the operating room.

Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC)

In this type of anesthesia, sedation is given in your IV while your surgeon injects numbing medication into the surgical area. Since various degrees of IV sedation can be provided, you and your anesthesiologist can plan for the level of sedation you desire. Infrequently, a MAC does not provide optimal conditions for the surgical procedure. At these times a general anesthetic is usually the back-up plan.