Each year, millions of people in the United States undergo some form of medical treatment requiring anesthesia. Anesthesia, in the hands of qualified professionals, is a safe and effective means of alleviating pain during nearly every type of medical procedure. Anesthesia care is not confined to surgery alone. The process also refers to activities that take place both before and after an anesthetic is given.
During surgery, one of three kinds of anesthesia is used. The three types of anesthesia are:
Monitored anesthesia care (MAC) is often used for surgery that is short and does not require the surgeon to cut muscle or bone. Sedatives and pain killers are given through an IV. The area around the surgical site is numbed with a local anesthetic. You may choose to remain awake or sleep lightly. If you are uncomfortable, your anesthesiologist can usually make you sleepier or the surgeon can inject more local anesthesia.
Regional anesthesia is often used for surgery on the arms, legs, lower abdomen and during childbirth. A local anesthetic is injected to block nerve impulses in a nerve or group of nerves coming from the site of the surgical procedure. The area will begin to feel numb within minutes. Sedatives are typically administered through an IV catheter. With regional anesthesia, you may remain awake or choose to sleep lightly.
General anesthesia is most often used for more extensive surgery, such as abdominal, heart, brain or chest surgery. You are unconscious throughout the surgery.
In certain situations, a combination of general and regional anesthesia may be appropriate. Following your pre-anesthetic evaluation, your anesthesiologist will recommend an anesthetic choice for the case, taking into account your health status and preference and the nature of the surgical procedure.