The Types Of Anesthesia Explained

When you have surgery or dental procedures (other than cleaning and X-rays), you will likely receive some type of anesthesia. Anesthesia numbs the nerves so patients don't feel any pain during the process. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, various types of anesthesia may be used depending on the procedure, the patient's current health condition, and their medical history. An anesthesiologist administers the anesthesia before surgery and ensures the palliative has taken full effect before the surgical or dental practitioner begins work.

The various types of anesthesia fall under two main categories. Sedative anesthetic causes varying degrees of sleepiness, up to unconsciousness, while analgesics block pain sensations. Sometimes, more than one type of anesthesia is used simultaneously. Usually, this means an analgesic is administered to supplement a sedative that does not offer pain relief (via Saudi Journal of Anesthesia).

Under these two main categories, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) explains there are three types of analgesic anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Here are the types of anesthesia explained.

Local, regional, and general anesthesia

According to the ASA, local anesthesia numbs a small area in one part of the body. Before minor surgery, receiving stitches, or with routine dental work, local anesthesia is injected where corrective work is needed. Generally, patients remain awake and alert. WebMD notes that dentists may use sedation when necessary. Most commonly, a dentist may offer nitrous oxide to sedate a nervous patient. They may more deeply sedate a patient using oral or IV sedation if the patient has a strong gag reflex, can't sit still in the chair, has extremely sensitive teeth, or needs a lot of dental work at once.

Regional anesthesia blocks pain signals from a larger cluster of nerves than local anesthesia but remains localized to one region. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine says regional anesthesia is often administered during surgery in the arms or legs, abdominal surgeries, reproductive procedures, and eye surgery. Spinal and epidural blocks are used for most operations that require a regional anesthetic. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, epidural anesthesia is commonly used during childbirth and abdominal surgeries. Spinal anesthesia is used for leg, rectum, pelvis, and lower abdomen procedures.

General anesthesia induces unconsciousness and is used during major operations like open heart surgery, says the ASA. General anesthesia is administered through a breathing mask or tube or administered by intravenous insertion. After surgery, general anesthesia is stopped, and patients are monitored in a recovery room until they wake (per Johns Hopkins Medicine).