With an ever-growing number of surgeries being performed on an outpatient basis, the average health care consumer may have a hard time making informed decisions about their medical needs. One of the most confusing questions is the question of anesthesia.
Different types of surgeries, sometimes called procedures, offer the patient a variety of options for sedation and knowing how each is defined can make it easier to make an informed decision. Everything from the location of the procedure, both the part of your body and what type of medical facility you are at, to the expected length of the operation can impact the decision about anesthesia.
Anesthesia by Location
Some health facilities are not authorized by insurance companies to bill for general anesthesia, so every patient considering a surgical procedure should start by asking the doctor where the operation will take place. Ambulatory surgery centers, sometimes called same day surgery centers, may not be able to use general anesthesia.
The next question to ask is whether you need general anesthesia. Every surgery involving general anesthesia involves a risk of sudden death as a reaction to the medication, even if you have had it before. Generally speaking, the least amount of anesthesia that you as a patient can receive while remaining comfortable is the best way to go. If you are concerned about viewing the procedure, talk to your health care provider about so-called twilight anesthesia, the use of sedatives to help you sleep or be less conscious.
For almost three years, I assisted patients in a doctor’s office with the paperwork that they needed to complete before surgery and one of the standard warnings given to every patient was the possibility of complications from the anesthesia.
Types of anesthesia
When most people think of anesthesia, they think of general anesthesia with a breathing mask and counting backwards until you fall asleep. But technically anesthesia is defined as a form of medication used to reduce or eliminate the feeling of pain and even some medications simply intended to clean out cuts and abrasions contain a mild topical anesthesia.
General anesthesia is used for major, invasive surgical procedures, especially when there is a concern that the patient might otherwise become mobile during the operation. Under general anesthesia, a patient usually has both inhaled and intravenous medication delivered to render them unconscious. While you are “asleep,” the body’s reaction to pain is muted and major surgeries can be completed.
Monitored anesthesia, sometimes called waking sedation, leaves the patient technically awake but more relaxed and responsive to instructions. This type of sedation is very common in outpatient procedures, such as cataract surgery. Monitored anesthesia is administered via IV, but patients are sometimes also given oral medications which may produce a minor forgetfulness, making it less likely that the patient remembers the process of the surgery.
Regionalized anesthesia is well-known to almost every woman who has ever given birth. Often administered as an epidural or as a nerve block, regional anesthesia is designed to lessen pain in a specific part of the body, for a shorter period of time.
Local anesthesia, sometimes called topical anesthesia, is very concentrated and is limited to a very specific area of the body. Lidocaine or another local anesthesia is applied to the surface area, the skin, of the affected area or injected into the tissue adjacent to the site of the surgery. This type of anesthesia is often used for small surgical procedures, like the removal of a mole or some oral surgeries.