There are several different types of anesthesia and for the majority of surgeries general anesthesia is given, which consists of either an IV medication that puts the patient to sleep or local anesthesia which is being used more and more for minor surgical procedures. Local anesthesia numbs the area being operated on, however many patients are also given some other type of medication that helps them relax.
Each type of anesthesia has its pro’s and con’s, and choosing the proper anesthesia depends on the type of procedure being performed, wishes of the patient and risk factors of the anesthesia itself.
Local anesthesia means that an injection of a numbing agent is given directly into the area in which the surgery is being done, the injection then blocks the patient from feeling any pain in that area. Minor surgical procedures on certain parts of the body may allow a patient to have this type of anesthesia. Many surgeries are using this type of anesthesia including endoscopies and minor biopsies. Although this anesthesia is likely to be the proper choice for someone undergoing a minor procedure, it tends to get patients nervous and often brings about nausea, so many times physicians will order some type of other medication in order to help the patient go into a twilight state and relax them completely for the procedure.
Regional anesthetics are simply an injection of a numbing agent much the same as a local, but over a larger body area. Regional anesthetics are given into major nerve areas or the spinal cord area in which to block the pain for a much larger part of the body. Just as with local anesthetics many people will also get another medication to help them relax and avoid nausea from their nerves. Types of regional anesthetics or blocks include:
Nerve blocks – A local anesthetic is injected into a specific nerve area in which to block the pain to that specific part of the body that the nerve supplies. Nerve blocks are used for many procedures, including procedures involving the hands, legs, and feet. I have assisted with nerve blocks and many patients with chronic pain conditions have them as a way of combating pain in certain areas of their body, the blocks tend to last longer than other types of pain management.
Spinal or epidural blocks are generally used for abdomen or leg surgeries and many women who have C-section surgeries during childbirth opt for spinals so they can witness the birth of their baby and experience everything without feeling any pain.
General anesthesia is commonly given through an IV into a vein. The IV medication puts the patient asleep and affects the entire body. Gas which can be inhaled is another method of general anesthesia however it is not being used as much as in years past especially in lengthy surgeries because of breathing problems and adverse side effects. During general anesthesia patients are put to sleep and do not feel any pain, however some patients have problems coming out of general anesthesia. Some patients also have medical problems that keep them from being able to undergo general anesthesia without proper clearance from specialists, such as patients with heart or respiratory problems. Some patients also experience amnesia like side effects post op from surgeries because of the general anesthesia.
General anesthesia can also require the patient to be intubated and the intubation can cause some throat problems or other after effects.
Procedural sedation is where they combine a local numbing agent with a small dose of analgesic, painkiller or sedation medication in order to relax the patient for minor surgical procedures.
No matter what type of anesthesia is used, patients must be carefully monitored to make certain the person has no complications or side effects from the anesthesia that is given. Monitoring the vital signs of the patient helps identify any problems quickly so that if there is a problem it can be handled as soon as possible.
Examples of anesthetics include:
Lidocaine for local anesthesia, Versed or Propofol for general anesthesia and nitrous oxide for inhalation anesthetics.
Other examples of the different types of anesthesia for the different types of surgeries would include:
Dentist uses a numbing agent or local in order to do some types of dental work. Some dentists also use inhalation anesthesias for dental surgical procedures.
Patient that undergo hours of heart surgery or back surgery will have general anesthesia which will keep them asleep through the entire surgery.
Patients having babies often request during labor for a spinal or epidural in which to relieve the pain in the last stage of labor and childbirth
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