Anesthesia is a way to control pain during a surgery or procedure by using medicine called anesthetics. It can help control your breathing, blood pressure, blood
flow, and heart rate and rhythm.
Anesthesia may be used to:
Make you sleepy or forgetful.
unconscious for your surgery.
Other medicines may be used along with anesthesia, such as ones to help you relax or to reverse the effects of anesthesia.
What are the types of anesthesia?
Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body for minor procedures. For example, you may get a shot of medicine directly into the surgical area to block pain. You may stay awake during the procedure.
Regional anesthesia blocks pain to a larger part of your body. You may also get medicine to help
you relax or sleep. Types of regional anesthesia include:
Peripheral nerve blocks. This is
a shot of anesthetic 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.
and spinal anesthesia. This is a shot of anesthetic near the spinal cord and
the nerves that connect to it. It blocks pain from an entire region of the
body, such as the belly, hips, or legs.
General anesthesia affects your brain and the rest of your body. You may get anesthesia through a vein (intravenously, or IV), or you
may breathe it in. With this kind, you're unaware and don't feel pain during the surgery. You may also forget the surgery and the time right after it.
What determines the type of anesthesia used?
The type of anesthesia used depends on several things:
Your past and current health. This includes other surgeries you have had and the health problems you
have, such as
heart disease or
diabetes. Tell your doctor if you or any
family members have had an allergic reaction to anesthetics or
The type of surgery. For example, you may need general anesthesia to ensure your comfort and safety during certain types of surgery.
Your doctor or nurse may prefer one type of anesthesia over
another for your surgery. In some cases, your doctor or nurse may let you
choose which type to have. Sometimes, such as in an emergency, you don't get
What are the risks and complications of anesthesia?
Major side effects and other problems of anesthesia aren't
common, especially in people who are in good health. But all anesthesia
has some risk.
For example, high doses of local and regional anesthetic can go into the rest of the body and affect your breathing, heartbeat, or blood
pressure. Some people get headaches after spinal anesthesia.
Your specific risks depend on the type of anesthesia you get,
your age, your health, and how you respond to the medicines used. Some health problems, such as heart or lung disease, increase your chances of problems from
anesthesia. Taking certain medicines, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs can also increase your chance of problems.
or nurse will talk with you about the best type for you and will review risks,
benefits, and other choices.
How can you prepare for anesthesia?
Your surgeon may let you know what to do the night before and
the day of the procedure. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Know when to stop eating and drinking. Your doctor will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before
your surgery. If you take any medicines regularly, ask your
doctor or nurse if you should take your medicines on the day before or the day
of your surgery.
Try to stay calm. Many people are nervous before they have anesthesia and surgery.
Mental relaxation methods, such as guided imagery or meditation, can help you relax. And some medicines can help you relax.
Plan ahead for going home. Ask a friend or a family member to drive you home. Don't plan to drive yourself.
If your child is having surgery or a procedure, you can help him or her prepare. Let your child know what to expect. Be honest if he or she might feel pain. Be sure to tell your child that you will be close by.
What happens while you're under anesthesia and when you recover?
Before and during surgery, an
anesthesiologist or a
nurse anesthetist will take charge of your comfort and
safety. He or she will give you the anesthesia and closely monitor you. This means he or she will check your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and other vital body functions throughout the surgery. During surgery, the anesthesia specialist also will continue to give anesthesia to keep you free of pain.
When the procedure is complete, you will stop getting the medicine. How quickly
the anesthesia wears off depends on the anesthetics and other medicines used
and on your response to the medicines.
After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. A
nurse will check your vital signs and any bandages and ask about how much pain
you have. If you are in pain, don't be afraid to say so.
Some effects of anesthesia may last for many hours after surgery.
You may have some
numbness or less feeling in part of your body if you had
local or regional anesthesia.
Your muscle control and
coordination may be affected.
You may have nausea and vomiting. Most of the time, this can
be treated and doesn't last long.
You may feel cold and may shiver when you first wake up.
For minor surgeries, you may go home the same day. If surgery is more complicated, you may have to move to a hospital room to continue your
recovery. If you stay in the hospital, your doctor or nurse will visit you to
check on your recovery and answer any questions you
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American Society of Anesthesiologists Patient Page
This website, sponsored by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, has information to help adults and children before and after anesthesia. This website has videos, articles, patient stories, and more.
American Society of Anesthesiologists
520 N. Northwest Highway
Park Ridge, IL 60068
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is a group of physicians who develop the medical standards of anesthesiology and seek to improve
patient care. The ASA website has information about pain relief, anesthesia during a procedure, and more.
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
American Society of Anesthesiologists (2006). Guidelines for patient care in anesthesiology. Available online:
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