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Anesthesia

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Anesthesia

Overview

Anesthesia is a way to control pain and keep you safe and comfortable during a procedure. Medicines are used to block pain. They also may make you relaxed, sleepy, or forgetful. Or they may make you unconscious for your procedure.

Types of anesthesia

The types of anesthesia include:

  • Sedation. It's medicine that helps you relax or fall asleep. It may be used with other medicine to control pain.
  • Local. It numbs a small part of the body.
  • Regional. It blocks pain to a larger area of your body. Some types of regional anesthesia include:
    • Peripheral nerve blocks. This is a shot of medicine to block pain around a specific nerve or group of nerves. Blocks are often used for procedures on the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face.
    • Spinal and epidural. These are shots of medicine near the spinal cord and the nerves that connect to it. They block pain from an entire region of the body, such as the belly, hips, or legs.
  • General. It affects your whole body. You're unconscious during the procedure.

What to tell your doctor

Tell the specialist about any health problems (such as sleep apnea). Also talk about any past surgeries and if a family member had problems with anesthesia. Let them know if you're pregnant or if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. Give them a list of all medicines, vitamins, and herbal products you take.

Risks

Major side effects and other problems aren't common, especially in people who are in good health.

But all anesthesia has some risk. For example:

  • After general anesthesia, nausea and sore throat can occur. In rare cases, heart or breathing problems or other serious issues can occur.
  • After spinal or epidural anesthesia, some people get headaches. In rare cases, heart or breathing problems or nerve damage can occur.

Your risk depends on the type of medicine you get. It also depends on your age, your health, and how you respond to the medicines used. Some conditions increase your chances of problems. Examples include heart and lung problems, obesity, and sleep apnea. Taking certain medicines can raise your risk for problems. So can smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs.

Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about the best type for you. They will review risks and benefits.

Credits

Current as of: June 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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