What is anesthesia?
The term, anesthesia, is derived from a Greek phrase meaning, "loss of sensation." It is a medical technique to eliminate pain during operations and small-scale procedures, either by rendering a patient unconscious or administering anesthetics to a localized area. Anesthesia is designed to regulate heart rate/rhythm, blood flow, blood pressure and breathing to stabilize normal bodily functions while a medical procedure is being carried out. Additionally, anesthesia can also be administered to reduce anxiety, paralyze muscles, and induce amnesia to eliminate a patient's recollection of the procedure and how it felt.
What are the types of anesthesia?
Depending on the medical procedure being performed on a patient, anesthesia can take a variety of forms and utilize a combination of anesthetics to suit the nature of the operation. These include:
This is the most commonly known form of anesthesia that utilizes a variety of medications to cause a person to fall and remain asleep throughout the duration of major surgery. Typically, these medications are administered by breathing through a mask or injecting medication through a catheter in a vein. Patients who are given anesthesia are then closely monitored by anesthesiologists to check for any notable changes in blood pressure, breathing and pulse.
This technique is normally used with minor outpatient procedures and involves numbing a specific part of the body to eliminate any feelings of pain. It can be combined with sedation in some cases, especially if the patient is prone to anxiety or distress before an operation.
Regional anesthesia focuses on a much larger portion of the body, as opposed to a localized spot. An anesthesiologist will numb an area next to a cluster of nerves, which will prep the area for surgery. Patients can be awake or sedated during these procedures, and depending on where the anesthetics are injected, peripheral nerve blocks or epidural anesthesia may be used to localize the anesthesia in specific parts of the body. Typically, these are used when operating on extremities, as they can block pain sensations emanating from a particular area.