Anesthesia means the loss of sensation, which can happen via some type of nerve damage. During surgery this loss of sensation, particularly the feeling of pain, can be intentionally and temporarily produced. Anesthetics are given to accomplish this, a type of drug inducing anesthesia.
An anesthetic can cause anesthesia with or without the loss of consciousness. The decision to cause unconsciousness or not largely depends on the surgery to be performed. As such, there are different types of anesthetics for achieving local, regional or general anesthesia. And they all have some effect on your nervous system.
A local anesthetic causes anesthesia in only a small area for a short time and is administered by injection, spray or ointment. It causes the spot to feel numb, but you’ll remain alert and awake. Local anesthesia is used regularly for dental work, minor skin surgery or other minor surgeries and injury repairs.
A regional anesthetic causes anesthesia in a larger area than local and is employed when unconsciousness is not necessary. Examples of this type is spinal and epidural anesthesia, epidural is occasionally used during childbirth.
General anesthetics cause you to be rendered unconscious and is administered for major surgery by inhalation or intravenous injection. Essentially, a general anesthesia affects your whole body to the point that you feel nothing and remember nothing about the surgery after waking. Muscle relaxants may be used as well to reduce the amount of anesthetic necessary.
Conscious sedation uses sedatives (barbiturates) and pain relievers to minimize surgery discomfort. It induces an altered state of consciousness, yet you are fully awake and able to communicate. And afterwards, partial or total amnesia allows for little or no memory of your surgery.
Anesthetics may cause side effects. When your general anesthesia drug starts to wear off, you’ll gradually awaken, probably feel groggy and perhaps a bit confused. Some other anesthetic side effects may involve:
There is a small risk of serious complications and even death from general anesthesia, such as:
Anesthesia complications are rare and more frequently occur in the elderly or if you suffer other health related conditions like:
The health care provider that administers and manages general anesthesia for surgery is an anesthesiologist.