General Anesthesia

The most common type of anesthesia is General Anesthesia. When a patient undergoes this type of anesthetic the intention is to put the patient completely to sleep but also to make them relax and to feel no pain. It is also important that the patient not have any recall of the circumstances of the procedure. When this occurs the anesthesia provider will use a variety of

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Spinal Anesthesia

This is a type of anesthesia that has been around for many years.  Spinal anesthesia is one of the oldest anesthesia techniques used for surgery.  In the past it was common to use this for urologic procedures (procedures of the bladder). A small needle is carefully inserted in the low back and into the spinal canal.  A very small amount of medication is then injected.  This will then allow that part of the body to become numb and surgery can then take place.  It was very effective but because of a lack of understanding, it was accompanied by side effects like spinal headaches.  Over time it has been refined with the use of new equipment, medications and techniques and this makes it much safer and produces good results.

Epidural

It is common to use an epidural as a supplement to the general anesthesia.  The epidural allows placement of a small catheter near the spinal canal to give medications. These will anesthetize the nerve endings in that area.  The location of the epidural placement is very important.  It will usually be placed so that it numbs the area were surgery is performed.  For example, with chest surgery the epidural is placed in the area of the mid-thoracic spine, whereas for an abdominal procedure it will go in the lower thoracic spine.  The medications used are usually a combination of local anesthetic medications and a narcotic.  This will give good additional pain control and often intravenous narcotics will not be required after surgery.

When these techniques are used effectively they can result in a good experience.  Patients often awaken quickly and have minimal pain.

Questions

I don’t want to go to sleep, will regional anesthesia work for me?

Regional anesthesia can be used for many surgeries today especially when dealing with upper extremity or lower extremity surgery. Make sure to ask your anesthesia provider if it will work for you.

Can I have regional anesthesia if I am on blood thinners?

If you are on blood thinners, regional anesthesia can be more difficult to use because almost all regional techniques require the use of needles. Most anesthesia providers will not want to do an epidural if you are on a blood thinner. It is possible to still use this technique in many cases but make sure you discuss this with your anesthesia provider.

Does the regional anesthetic hurt?

Today most regional anesthetic techniques are accompanied by sedation and a local anesthetic. Chances are that it will hurt less than when they start your Intravenous line. It is usually a non painful procedure.