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How Anesthesia Works

Your body has a network of billions of nerve cells that connect your brain and spinal cord. This nervous system spreads messages throughout your body, including messages of injury that translate as pain sensations. The goal of anesthesia is to block these signals.

There are four anesthetic options:

  • General anesthesia - This produces unconsciousness so that your brain does not perceive any pain signals from the nervous system and you don't feel, see or hear anything during the procedure.
  • Regional anesthesia - This eliminates pain in a larger part of the body by temporarily blocking large groups of nerves or the spinal cord so that the pain signal cannot reach the brain. It produces numbness and loss of sensation in the region of the body corresponding to the surgical procedure. Epidural or spinal anesthesia are examples. They produce numbness of the abdomen and both lower legs. You may get sedatives to make you comfortable and drowsy.
  • Monitored anesthesia care (MAC) - With this approach, you usually receive pain medication and sedatives through your IV. The surgeon also will inject local anesthesia into the skin, which will provide additional pain control during and after the procedure.
  • Local anesthesia - This blocks a small area and doesn't affect your over all consciousness. The surgeon injects local anesthetic to provide numbness at the surgical site. This doesn't require the presence of an anesthesiologist.

The type of anesthesia selected for you will be based on the type of surgery, your medical conditions and your preferences.