Patient Resources

Types of Anesthesia

A variety of anesthesia techniques are available with the ultimate goal of assuring your comfort and safety throughout the procedure. The type of anesthesia will depend on the specific surgery being performed along with its expected duration, your individual medical history, needs for postoperative pain control, and your personal preference.

All of these factors will be considered when developing an anesthetic plan. Your participation in supplying information about your medical conditions, previous anesthetics, current medications and allergies will assist the anesthesiologist in recommending the safest and best anesthetic for you.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia: the complete loss of consciousness and memory during the procedure, and it is the most common type of anesthesia. This is achieved through a combination of intravenous medications through an IV and/or inhalation gases through a mask or breathing tube.

Common side effects: include sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, and grogginess, but these are usually of short duration.

Safety: Due to advances in the safety of medications and monitoring, the risk of serious events after general anesthesia is very low.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia: blocks the sensation to a portion of the body. This is accomplished by injecting local anesthetic (numbing medicine) around nerves that supply the site of surgery. This type of anesthesia will likely be given in conjunction with sedation medication to help you relax or lightly sleep through the procedure.

Regional anesthesia can be grouped into two broad categories:

Central Nerve Blocks - Epidural and spinal anesthesia are considered central nerve blocks.

  • Administration: Numbing medicine is injected in the lower back around the nerves that supply sensation to the lower abdomen, hips, and legs.
  • Usage: often used for hip/knee replacement, urologic surgery, and C-sections.
  • It can also provide pain relief during labor or after complex chest and abdominal surgery.
  • Safety: Central nerve blocks are both safe and reliable.
  • Risk Factors: The risks include a 1-1.5% chance of headache, but serious complications such as infection, bleeding, or nerve damage are very rare.

Peripheral Nerve Blocks – These blocks are used to numb a specific nerve or group of nerves.

  • This can be the primary mode of anesthesia, but is frequently utilized for postoperative pain control along with general anesthesia for the surgery itself.
  • Usage: These are commonly used for extended pain control after surgery for the shoulder, hand, knee, and foot/ankle.
  • Risk Factors: Risks associated with peripheral nerve blocks are very small and typically outweighed by the benefit of pain control.

Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC)

This is often referred to as “conscious sedation” or “twilight”. It involves sedation medication to blur your memory and make you relaxed, comfortable, and drowsy during your procedure. Patients may or may not remember part of the experience.

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