During surgery, you will be given some form of anesthesia -
medication administered for the relief of pain and sensation during
surgery. The type and dosage of anesthesia is administered by the
anesthesiologist. When a patient faces surgery, he or she will meet
with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist before the procedure.
The anesthesiologist will review the patient's medical condition and
history to plan the appropriate anesthetic for surgery.
There are various forms of anesthesia. The type of anesthesia you
will receive will depend on the type of surgery and your medical
condition. Usually, an anesthesiologist will administer a sedative in
addition to the anesthetic. The different types of anesthesia include
Local anesthesia is an anesthetic agent 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 use regional anesthetics.
Regional anesthesia is used to numb only the portion of the body
which will receive the surgical procedure. Usually an injection of
local anesthetic is given in the area of nerves that provide feeling
to that part of the body. There are several forms of regional
anesthetics, two of which are described below:
Spinal anesthetic - a spinal anesthetic is used for lower
abdominal, pelvic, rectal, or lower extremity surgery. This type of
anesthetic involves injecting a single dose of the anesthetic
medication into the subarachnoid space, which surrounds the spinal
cord. The injection is made into the lower back, below the end of
the spinal cord, and causes numbness in the lower body. In some
situations, such as a prolonged procedure, continuous spinal
anesthesia may be used. A thin catheter (hollow tube) is left in
place in the subarachnoid space for additional injections of the
anesthetic agent, which ensures numbness during the length of the
Epidural anesthetic - the epidural anesthetic is
similar to a spinal anesthetic and is commonly used for surgery of
the lower limbs and during labor and childbirth. This type of
anesthesia involves continually infusing an anesthetic medication
through a thin catheter (hollow tube). The catheter is placed into
the space that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower back (just
outside the subarachnoid space), causing numbness in the lower body.
Epidural anesthesia may also be used for chest surgical procedures.
In this case, the anesthetic medication is injected at a higher
location in the back to numb the chest and abdominal areas.
General anesthesia - general anesthesia is an anesthetic used to
induce unconsciousness during surgery. The medication is either
inhaled through a breathing mask or tube, or administered through an
intravenous line (a thin plastic tube inserted into a vein, usually
in the patient's forearm). A breathing tube may be inserted into the
windpipe to maintain proper breathing during surgery. Once the
surgery is complete, the anesthesiologist ceases the anesthetic and
the patient wakes up in the recovery room.
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