Anesthetics used in surgery are of different kinds. The choice on which one to use depends on your medical history, the type of surgery you will undergo, your anesthesiologist and your surgeon’s preference. No matter the type of anesthesia used, you will be placed under close supervision. Your breathing rate, blood oxygen level, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and electrocardiogram will be closely monitored.
There are four different kinds of anesthesia:
- General anesthesia
- Regional anesthesia – epidural, spinal and nerve block anesthesia
- Combined general and epidural anesthesia
- Monitored anesthesia care with conscious sedation.
Your anesthesiologist will discuss the risk and benefits of each type of anesthesia prior to your surgery. Always endeavor to ask all necessary questions. Remember, it is your anesthesiologist that will decide what type of anesthetic to administer.
- General anesthesia: This features the administration of anesthetic that causes the patients to fall asleep such that they cannot feel anything all through the surgery period. These medications may be administered either intravenously or through the nasal route (some exist in the form of gases and are administered through a tube with oxygen or through a breathing mask). General anesthesia has side effects namely sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and shivering. General anesthesia is commonly administered in most surgery procedures.
- Regional anesthesia:Here, a portion of the body is numbed by injecting a local anesthetic near a nerve. There are many kinds of regional anesthetics including epidural anesthesia, spinal anesthesia and some specific nerve blocks. Patients may be awake, put to sleep or sedated when regional anesthesia is used. The epidural anesthesia involves injection of a local anesthetic, mostly a narcotic, into the epidural space. This may be done through a catheter or a needle. The epidural space is positioned outside the spinal cord. This type of anesthesia is mostly applied during child delivery or in procedures featuring the lower extremities. In spinal anesthesia, there’s a local injection of the anesthetic. This may be done with or without a narcotic, but directly into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. It is commonly applied in CS, genitourinary surgery and surgery featuring the lower extremities. Nerve blocks inhibit the transmission of pain signals at a specific site. When the anesthetic is injected into a nerve or a group of nerves, relief can then be localized to the site of the pain. This anesthesia provides pain management during and after the surgery procedure. Side effects associated with this are minimal. Nerve blocks include inter-scalene nerve block (for shoulder surgery), and supraclavicular nerve block for surgery of the arm.
- Combined general with epidural anesthesia: This type of anesthesia puts the patient to sleep and also provides pain relief simultaneously, both during and after the procedure. The epidural catheter provides relief even after the surgery and this will enhance movement after the surgery. This anesthesia is used mostly during thoracic and abdominal procedures. The epidural catheter may remain in position for a few days after the surgery.
- Monitored anesthesia care with conscious sedation:this involves intravenous administration of medications via a catheter to help in relaxation and inhibition of pain signal transmission. It is a combination of narcotic and sedative medications that helps you tolerate conditions that would otherwise be very uncomfortable. Additionally, an anesthetic may be injected at the site of the procedure for the control of pain. In the event that the patient cannot tolerate this type of anesthesia, he may be given a general anesthetic to safely complete the procedure.