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What is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a controlled, temporary loss of sensation or consciousness caused by the administration of medications known as anesthetics. Anesthesia medications may be administered through inhalation, ointment, injection, skin patches, or topical spray.

Indications of Anesthesia

Anesthesia is mainly indicated during certain surgeries or medical procedures to temporarily block the pain (sensory) signals to the brain. This medication may be given by a nurse, doctor, or anesthesiologist depending on whether you are undergoing a minor or major procedure. The various types of surgeries or procedures include: 

  • Tooth fillings or other dental procedures
  • Colonoscopies 
  • Childbirth (C-section)
  • Chest or abdominal surgeries
  • Joint replacement surgeries

Types of Anesthesia

Some of the common types of anesthesia include:

  • Local Anesthesia: This anesthesia helps to treat or numb a small part or section of the body undergoing surgery or any other procedure. This is usually employed in cases of minor procedures like dental or cataract surgery. Individuals remain conscious during this anesthetic procedure.
  • Regional Anesthesia: This type of anesthesia helps block the pain signals in a particular region of the body such as arms, legs, or areas below the waist. As you remain conscious during the surgery, you will be administered sedatives to relax. This anesthesia is most commonly used in joint arthroplasty surgery and is of 2 types: 
    • Spinal Anesthetic: It is used during rectal, pelvic, lower abdominal, or lower extremity surgery. In this technique, the anesthetic medicine is injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord in the lower region of your back.
    • Epidural Anesthetic: This is similar to a spinal anesthetic and is used during c-section delivery, normal delivery, or surgery of lower limbs. This procedure uses a catheter (a thin tube) that is placed in your lower back to dispense local anesthetics over a variable period.
  • General Anesthesia: General anesthesia results in loss of consciousness and sensation. This is introduced into the body through a breathing tube/ mask or by an IV line during major surgeries like organ transplants, heart surgery, or brain surgery.
  • Sedation: This is provided as pills, or liquid is taken by mouth or intravenously. It helps you to feel relaxed and sleepy. Sedation is provided along with regional or local anesthesia and this is present in 3 levels, that include:
    • Minimal sedation: This sedation keeps you awake and makes you feel relaxed during the procedure.
    • Moderate sedation: Also known as conscious sedation keeps you awake but you are less aware of your surroundings and it helps in reducing pain.
    • Deep sedation: This level of sedation causes loss of consciousness and helps in relieving any pain or discomfort.

Preparation for Anesthesia

Preparation for anesthesia includes:

  • Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a thorough physical and neurological examination will be performed.
  • Certain imaging or lab tests may be ordered.
  • You should report to your doctor if you are pregnant or have any other medical conditions.
  • Inform your doctor if you are allergic to any medications.
  • You will be asked about your lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol, or use of any recreational drugs.
  • Your doctor will acquire a signed informed consent from you after the risks and side effects of the anesthesia have been explained.
  • You will be instructed not to drink or eat for a few hours before coming for the procedure.

Procedure for Anesthesia

Based on the procedure and type of anesthesia required, an anesthesiologist or doctor will introduce the anesthetic medication in the following ways:

  • Inhaled gas
  • IV infusion
  • Nasal spray
  • Topical lotion
  • Skin patch

Recovery after Anesthesia

After general anesthesia, you may be taken to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and your vital signs will be monitored as you slowly regain consciousness. You will be discharged once you are fully awake and alert and any post-surgical pain is well controlled. Following local or regional anesthesia, the numbed area will slowly regain sensation. You may have to wait for a few hours for sedation to wear off and then you will be discharged. 

Side Effects of Anesthesia

Most of the side effects of anesthesia usually disappear within 24 hours. Some of the common side-effects include:

  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Muscle pain
  • Tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Urinating issues
  • Seizures
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Sleepiness