Are there different kinds of anesthesia?
There are three main categories of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Each has many forms and uses.
In local anesthesia, the anesthetic drug is usually injected into the tissue to numb just the specific area of the body requiring minor surgery, (for example, the hand or foot).
In regional anesthesia, the anesthesiologist makes an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of the body that requires surgery. You may remain awake, or you may be given a sedative. You do not see or feel the actual surgery taking place.
In general anesthesia, you are unconscious and have no awareness or other sensations. There are a number of general anesthetic drugs. Some are gases or vapors inhaled through a breathing mask or tube, and others are medications introduced through a vein. During anesthesia, you are carefully monitored, controlled, and treated by your anesthesiologist, who uses sophisticated equipment to track all your major bodily functions. A breathing tube may be inserted through your mouth and, frequently, into your windpipe to maintain proper breathing during this period. The length and level of anesthesia is calculated and constantly adjusted with great precision. At the conclusion of surgery, the anesthesiologist will reverse the process, and you will regain awareness in the recovery room.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
All operations and all anesthesia have some risks, and they are dependent upon many factors, including the type of surgery and the medical condition of the patient. Fortunately, adverse events are very rare. Your anesthesiologist takes precautions to prevent an accident from occurring, just as you do when driving a car or crossing the street. The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the condition of the patient. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.
What about eating or drinking before my anesthesia?
As a general rule, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. Under some circumstances, you may be given permission by your anesthesiologist to drink clear liquids up to a few hours before your anesthesia.
Should I take my usual medicines?
Some medications should be taken and others should not. It is important to discuss this with your anesthesiologists. Do not interrupt medications unless your anesthesiologist or surgeon recommends it.
Could herbal medicines and other dietary supplements affect my anesthesia if I need surgery?
Anesthesiologists are conducting research to determine exactly how certain herbs and dietary supplements interact with certain anesthetics. They are finding that certain herbal medicines may prolong the effects of anesthesia. Others may increase the risks of bleeding or raise blood pressure. Some effects may be subtle and less critical, but for anesthesiologists, anticipating a possible reaction is better than reacting to an unexpected condition. So it is very important to tell your doctor about everything you take before surgery.